Bristol Museum Will Display Stolen Banksy Confiscated by City Hall

Banksy, Mobile Lovers (2014).
Photo: Banksy.

The municipal government in Bristol has stepped in to resolve the controversy over secretive street artist Banksy‘s latest work, which will now be displayed at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, reports the BBC.

Shortly after the painting of a couple embracing, their faces alight with the glow of their mobile devices, was announced on Banksy’s website, an opportunistic local youth club leader, Dennis Stinchcombe, pried the plywood artwork from the doorway where it had been installed.

Where the original stood, a smaller copy was displayed, along with a note reading:

This is where Banksy’s work did stand. It has been removed as it was at risk of being damaged or vandalized or taken away. As some of you may be aware, the Riverside Youth Project which stands to your left is under major threat of being shut down due to funding. You can view the art work in our building where it is being kept safe from harm! We will ask a small donation to be contributed if you do wish to view. Please do not hesitate to pop in!

Reactions to Stinchcombe’s theft have ranged from death threats to an offer of $1.7 million for the painting, according to the BBC. The Broad Plain Boys’ Club claims to need over $200,000 to continue operations, and had initially hoped to raise $170,000 from the proceeds of a sale.

Yesterday, Bristol mayor George Ferguson stepped in, urging the club to turn the painting over to police. “As far as we know it belongs to the city,” he told the BBC. “What’s important is that it’s available for everybody to see.” Reluctantly, the club acquiesced.

Now, it is unclear how much the struggling organization will benefit from the artwork, which is scheduled to go on view tomorrow, “once,” per the museum’s Twitter feed, “we have cleaned the spiders, wasp nest and dirt off.”

The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery promises to put up a donation box next to the work, and the mayor is encouraging Banksy to offer a limited-edition print of the work, with the proceeds to go to the club.

Stinchcombe, for his part, is heartbroken, asking “How often do you see a million pounds walk out of your club?”

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