When CONTEXT Art Miami brought four murals by the famous street artist Banksy to its tents last December, many in the international art community condemned the fair, saying it was justifying the removal of the works from their original location and effectively contributing to the ruin of the murals themselves.
But it didn't seem to matter much to the roughly 55,000 people who visited Art Miami and CONTEXT during Art Basel last year. Lesson learned: Questionably immoral art acquisition can still make big bucks.
Now, another Miami art institution has acquired a stolen Banksy -- and this time it's not just on display to paying customers. It's up for auction.
Fine Art Auctions Miami is selling two Banksy murals this Saturday: Wet Dog, one of the four that appeared at CONTEXT, and Banksy Slave Labor (Bunting Boy). According to The Guardian, Slave Labor originally appeared on the wall of a shop in London in May 2012, and was only discovered missing yesterday. (The wall was apparently covered up by a tarp.)
The guide price of the newest mural: between $500,000 and $700,000.
Frederic Thut, a specialist at Fine Art Auctions Miami, told The Sun that the mural is in storage in Europe, awaiting sale, and that the owner selling the Slave Labor is a "well known collector" who has "signed a contract saying everything was above board."
Residents of the London neighborhood where the mural originated, however, aren't as forgiving. Councillor Alan Strickland is urging his constituents to email Fine Art Auctions Miami in protest, and told The Sun:
"Banksy gave our community that painting for free.
"Someone has taken it and plans to make a huge amount for themselves, which is disgusting and counter to the spirit in which it was given.
"No doubt Banksy will be horrified."
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The works are scheduled to go to auction, along with 116 other art pieces, Saturday at 3 p.m.
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.