'Golden opportunity missed' - Disappointment after Banksy removal
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
People across Lowestoft have come together to express their shock and disappointment at the removal of a Banksy artwork in the centre of town.
The mural on the side of the former Lowestoft Electrical shop in London Road North, showing a girl building a sandcastle with a crowbar, was one of a series painted by the world famous artist and had become a popular stop on the 'Banksy trail'.
But hopes for it to become a long-standing part of Lowestoft's cultural scene were dashed over the weekend, with workmen coming in to remove it on Sunday.
It will now be taken away for sale at a private auction, with art experts expecting the piece to fetch millions.
It was one of four artworks to appear in the town in August, with the others appearing in Nicholas Everitt Park in Oulton Broad, on the side of a block of flats on Katwijk Way and at Lowestoft North beach seawall.
John Brandler, a private art dealer from Brentwood, Essex, said he believes the sandcastle piece has now been shipped off to Juliens Auction House in Culver City, California, where the London-based owner of Lowestoft Electrical, who lives in London, is selling it.
He also says a private client of his, who lives in Florida, approached East Suffolk Council with interest in buying the Katwijk Way flats with the seagull on the side, proposing to give them to the council as council housing for £1 while preserving the art piece.
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However, the building is not owned by East Suffolk Council and dealings on the future of the block of flats would have to be done directly with the owner.
According to Mr Brandler, the sandcastle piece will sell for millions, with Banksy's last piece, Love in the Bin, selling for £16million at Sotheby's in London in October.
But he felt its removal was a great shame for Lowestoft.
He said: "This is a missed golden opportunity for the town and it is such a shame to see the Banksy piece go.
"I approached the council and talked about creating an street art museum of all the Banksy pieces in town to promote visitor numbers.
"It saddens me to think the impact this will have on Lowestoft but in many ways you can't blame the owner of the building for deciding to do this."
Emma Butler-Smith, chief executive of the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft, has been left saddened by the news that the Banksy work has been sold off to America.
She said: "I think the Banksy pieces and more specifically the Banksy trail was an extraordinary thing to happen for Lowestoft.
"The sandcastle artwork was a really exciting piece for the town and attracted visitors from far and wide.
"I would say that this is a great shame for the town."
People in London Road North on Monday were shocked to see the artwork had been removed and said it was a shame for a high street which they feel needs regenerating.
John and Dorothy Pearson, from Kessingland, were out shopping and Mr Pearson said: "It's wrong really. He came to Lowestoft and did the artwork in Lowestoft and that is where they should stay.
"They shouldn't be going off to America.
"It got lots of people talking when he first did them and a lot of people came to see it.
"It was there and it was just nice to see and encouraged people to come into the empty high street."
He added: "It was nice to just walk down the high street and see it there and know that a world class artist had visited the town."
Another local, who wished to remain anonymous, said the Banksy piece on the high street attracted visitors from far and wide.
They said: "It's a huge shame to see it go because it brought so many people out onto the high street and it was lovely to look at."
A spokeswoman for East Suffolk Council said it could not stop the artwork's sale.
They added: "The Banksy pieces in Lowestoft and Oulton Broad continue to be appreciated by local people and so we can only hope that this piece, wherever it goes, will remain accessible for people to enjoy.”
What has happened to other Banksy pieces?
For now, all other Banksy pieces in Lowestoft are safe which include those in Nicholas Everitt Park, Katwijk Way and Lowestoft North beach sea wall.
In February 2021 in Nottingham, "Hula-hooping girl" was removed from the side of a wall in an area of the city called Lenton and sold off to a collector.
The Port Talbot Banksy piece was moved from the Taibach garage wall to Ty'r Orsaf in May 2019, the site of the former police station on Station Road.
Earlier in 2021, Reading prison was home to a Banksy which shows an escaping prisoner on one of its exterior walls. There were a few attempts of defacing by other people and the prison responded by fencing the art work.
In Dover, Banksy painted an EU flag believed to be in opposition of Brexit. The owner of the building whitewashed the art work.
"Kissing Coppers" in Brighton was transferred onto a canvas and sold for nearly $600,000 at auction.
Several pieces in London - including The Rat of Tooley Street, Rivington Street, His Masters Voice and Graffiti Painter on Portobello Road - are still viewable and are part of a guided tour.
"Well hung lover" in Bristol is still viewable and regularly attracts international visitors to the city.
"Rose trap" in Bristol - one of Banksy's oldest stencils - is still on display. The building has been painted over, but the stencil, and the original paintwork underneath, remains framed on the wall.
"Christmas reindeer" in Birmingham was painted on the side of a rail bridge in 2019. Network Rail decided to preserve the piece after several other Midlands-based work had been sold.