Banksy’s latest work is causing controversy and it isn’t because it looks a lot like a past cover from the Atlantic magazine. On Monday, the street artist's latest piece—-titled Mobile Lovers—appeared on a wall in Bristol, England, his hometown. The next day, however, it was removed and placed inside the neighboring Broad Plain & Riverside Youth Project.
Dennis Stinchcombe, who runs the youth organization, decided to grab the piece so as to protect it. He also believes that it was a gift from the artist and intends to sell it to continue funding the club, which finds itself in a financially precarious situation. The current plan is to auction it off.
“I had to make a decision as to whether to allow it to stay there and come in today to find it gone or damaged, or take it yesterday and think what we can do with this to make it a bit of a reality and be good for the community,” he told the BBC.
Stinchcombe attached a note where the work had been, telling interested viewers that Mobile Lovers was inside his club and that anyone was welcome to see it so long as they made a small donation to his organization.
The youth leader’s actions have not come without backlash. Bristol mayor George Ferguson claimed that the artwork belongs to the city because it was bolted to a city council-owned wall.
“He should be careful and make sure he’s on the right side of the law,” Ferguson said. “I’m pretty sure that it belongs to us.”
It isn’t just the city making these ominous remarks. Stinchcombe acknowledged that he has received death threats.
“I’ve had death threats today,” he told the Guardian. “I said to them, ‘If you want to threaten me, come down to the club and do it in the boxing ring.’”
Until the dispute is resolved, Mobile Lovers will be on display at a local art museum.
This by no means isn’t the first time that ownership of a Banksy piece has come into question. In 2012, a Miami gallery owner earned the ire of Banksy fans after putting five pieces up for auction against the wishes of the artist himself.
This incident raises various questions: Who owns the art if it’s left in a public space? Does the boy’s club have a right to auction off the piece if it serves the greater good?
What do you think?
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.