Can Locals Save Snowden-Inspired Banksy?

Banksy, Spy Booth. Photo: Jules Annan/Barcroft Media
Banksy, Spy Booth. Photo: Jules Annan/Barcroft Media

 

Following an unsuccessful campaign to raise £1 million in order to keep a Banksy artwork in Cheltenham, UK, a subsequent deal to protect the artwork is nearing completion, the BBC reports. The work, titled Spy Box, depicts three men listening around a phone booth and appeared in April.  Since that time it has drawn thousands of admirers to the city. Banksy admitted painting it at the beginning of June.

The piece is located three miles away from the government communications headquarters, GCHG. A group of local business leaders had endeavored to collect funds to purchase the piece after the house’s owner acknowledged that he would consider an “attractive offer.”

The group confirmed that despite numerous pledges from small businesses and individuals the target had not been reached before the self-imposed deadline. Angela DeSouza from the Cheltenham Women’s Business Club said “There has been a lot of support but we are really looking to gather the £1m from one person”. However, the group worked throughout the weekend to attempt to reach a subsequent deal, which was only being qualified as being in the six-figure range.

Negotiations continue and are said to be nearing completion. In the mean time, the group has stopped the work’s removal thanks to local historic preservation legislation. The mural was painted on a Grade II* listed house, which is protected under UK heritage legislation. Thus it cannot be removed without planning permission from the town council. According to English Heritage, the maximum penalty for violations is two years imprisonment or an unlimited fine.

“We hope that, by highlighting the planning act, the owner will halt any works that may be planed and instead submit a listed building consent application for our consideration,” Cheltenham Borough Council’s Jane Griffiths told the BBC ahead of the weekend.

With the subsequent deal now pending, Robin Barton from the Bankrobber gallery told the BBC, “Work has absolutely stopped on removing it and hopefully it will not resume.”

On Thursday, John Joyce from Q Scaffolding admitted that the property’s owner had contacted street art collector Sky Grimes to sell the piece for a seven-figure sum. The work was scheduled to go on view at a London Gallery on July 4.


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