One of the leaders of the campaign to bring back Turnpike Lane’s Banksy to the area has said it is “half way” to achieving its objective.
Fine Art Auctions Miami, which was due to sell Slave Labour (Bunting Boy) at auction last night, dramatically withdrew the piece from sale at the last minute, together with another Banksy taken from a wall in Bethlehem.
Haringey borough councillor Alan Strickland, who organised a protest yesterday at the Whymark Avenue site from which the Wood Green Bansky was taken, said he was “incredibly surprised but absolutely delighted” to learn it had been withdrawn.
He added that campaigners were “half way there” to getting the piece returned.
Cllr Strickland said: “I’ve been getting calls from residents who are just over the moon.
“I’m really excited that a campaign in Wood Green has had an effect thousands of miles away in a Miami auction house.”
It remains unclear why the two Banksy pieces were withdrawn from sale.
The Labour councillor had circulated leaflets to people in the community asking them to email the auction house, while council leader Cllr Claire Kober had contacted the Culture Secretary Maria Miller and Miami’s mayor Tomás Regalado to ask them to intervene.
Cllr Strickland added: “I would certainly hope that the big pressure the community has brought to bear and the hundreds and thousands of people who contacted the auction house have made a difference.
“I hope this was a victory for the people of Haringey standing up for themselves.”
Despite the piece’s satirical message - drawing attention to globalisation and child labour in the build-up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee - Cllr Strickland said residents had taken it to their hearts.
He said: “People were really proud to have a piece of art by an internationally renowned artist appear in the area.
“It’s a piece that residents have enjoyed and really valued. It’s brought visitors from all over London and put Wood Green on the map.”
The politician, who is cabinet member for economic developmen and culture, added that he did not feel the council should have to pay for its return.
He said: “The sense in the community is that this was a piece that was given freely by Banksy to be enjoyed.
“Why should we pay to buy back something that was ours in the first place?”
Before the auction, auction house owner Frederic Thut had defended the idea of selling graffiti as art, arguing that works could be conserved, and that it was up to the owners of walls what they did with them.
But Cllr Strickland said people from other cities had spoken to him of their concern if property owners began selling street art.
Cllr Strickland said: “It fundamentally is street art; it’s meant to be enjoyed publically, it’s meant to be enjoyed in context.
“I don’t see how a Banksy can be enjoyed in the same way if it’s in a glass box in a living room. That doesn’t seem to be in the spirit in which it was created.
“The worry is that rather than seeing street art where it belongs in the neighbourhood, we will start to see more and more pieces taken off walls.”