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Controversial British graffiti work up for sale again
New graffiti work that reads "Danger Thieves" is placed next to a section of a wall where celebrated street artist Banksy's "Slave Labour" graffiti artwork was removed in north London on February 23, 2013. The work that showed a young boy using a sewing machine to make the British flag has been carefully removed and will be auctioned in Miami where it's expected to fetch around 328,000 GBP (500,000 USD). Residents of the North London area have reacted angrily to the removal of the work, but the auction house says the piece was acquired legally. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS.

By: Nick Morrison

LONDON (AFP).- A work by renowned British graffiti artist Banksy that was withdrawn from a controversial US auction is being put up for sale again in London, auctioneers said Saturday.

The mural, called 'Slave Labour', mysteriously vanished from its original site on a wall in north London in February before appearing on an auction list in Miami later that month.

The work, which shows a boy making Union Jack bunting on a sewing machine and is an apparent comment on sweat-shop labour, was pulled from sale at the last minute, apparently after pressure by campaigners who wanted it returned to its original home.

The piece had been expected to fetch up to £450,000 ($691,000, 532,000 euros).

The work had first appeared in May last year on the wall of an outlet of thrift store Poundland in the Wood Green district of Haringey shortly before the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The piece is now set go on sale at the London Film Museum in London's Covent Garden on June 2, auctioneers The Sincura Group said in a statement.

Sincura said that the mural has "been sensitively restored under a cloak of secrecy", and will be "the centrepiece" of the group's latest private art exhibition alongside pieces by Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Mario Testino and Russell Young.

But Alan Strickland, a councillor for Wood Green who has spearheaded the 'Bring Back Banksy' campaign since the piece was removed from its original site, said he would fight to prevent the sale going ahead.

"We feel very strongly that this piece was given freely by Banksy to our area, it belongs to the community and it should be returned to Wood Green," said Strickland.

"The sale shows complete disregard for the strength of public feeling.

"We were delighted to stop the sale in Miami and we are determined to campaign hard to stop this sale.

"News that the piece is being sold at an exclusive VIP reception is particularly galling for residents who previously enjoyed the artwork for free on a daily basis."

Strickland said the successful sale of the work would set a dangerous precedent for other pieces of street art in public view.

"People from around the world have got in touch with us about this," Strickland told AFP. "They are watching this because they know the possible consequences for street art where they live if this sale takes place.

"If it goes ahead every piece of street art will have its price."

Keith Flett, secretary of the Haringey Trades Union Congress (TUC), said: "The Slave Labour Banksy belongs to the people of Haringey not to a wealthy private client.

"We want the sale stopped and the Banksy back where it belongs in London N22."

Sincura's director Tony Baxter said his group does "not condone any acts of wanton vandalism or other illegal activity" and said that they were "entirely satisfied that the mural was legally salvaged."

He said the current owners of the work preferred to remain anonymous "due to unnecessary and disproportionate criticism," adding that the piece was now being represented by a group called Bankrobber.

There was suspicion that the mural had been stolen when it first disappeared in February but London's Metropolitan Police said there were "no reports of any theft".

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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