Bidding started at US$70,000 for the graffiti cut from this wall.

London, UK

One night in May 2012, someone stenciled the image of a little boy, kneeling and sewing Union Jack bunting, on the wall of a discount supermarket in Haringey, UK. Experts immediately attributed the vandalism to anonymous street artist Banksy, and tourists began traveling to the London borough, following local signs, “This way to our Banksy.” But nine months later, Haringey’s Banksy disappeared. It reappeared a few days later in an auction house in Miami, USA, with a list price of nearly US$500,000 before suddenly being withdrawn from sale. In June 2013, Slave Labour was allegedly sold for $US 1.1 million to an anonymous buyer at a private auction back in London, UK.

Across the Atlantic, another wall has stood empty for 23 years in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, USA. The painting it once held, Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee, was cut from its frame on March 18, 1990, by two thieves wearing police uniforms and wax mustaches, who handcuffed the museum’s night guards before making an eclectic selection: five paintings, five drawings, one postage-stamp-sized etching, the top of a Napoleonic flagpole, and an ancient bronze beaker. They skipped Botticellis and Titians, but still managed to walk away with US$500 million worth of art: the greatest art heist in history.


From the pages of COLORS #87 - Looking at Art.