Folkestone: Minister Wants Banksy Mural Back In Town

A Government minister has called for a Banksy mural that was removed from a Kent amusement arcade and is now destined for a Miami art sale to be returned to the community.

Tory MP Ed Vaizey, a minister in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said what had happened made him wonder about the motivation of his fellow man.

The stencilled image, removed from Payers Park in Folkestone, depicts an older woman staring at an empty plinth while wearing headphones with her hands clasped behind her back.

It appeared at the end of September and clear plastic sheeting was placed over the piece to protect it.

But just two weeks later council workers were called to clean the mural after vandalism. 

The artwork was removed from the wall at the weekend, causing upset among the community and prompting an appeal from Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins asking owners, the Godden family, to reinstate it.

Shepway District Council also said it was "saddened" that the artwork had been removed.

Art dealer Robin Barton has since confirmed the piece will go on sale for around 750,000 US dollars (£470,000) when it forms part of a major show of Banksy images at art fair Context Art Miami next month.

Mr Collins raised the issue in the Commons today, saying the mural's removal was a matter of "great regret".

Mr Vaizey agreed and added: "Sometimes it makes one wonder about the motivation of one's fellow man when somebody as publicly spirited as Banksy who is prepared to create community artworks in public spaces for the benefit of the local population and has really been taken to the heart of many people that somebody - because it happens to be on their private property - should seek to use that windfall if you like.

"So I very much hope it will return and be donated to the community in Folkestone."

Mr Barton said the Banksy would be cleaned and restored at a secret location in the UK before being transported to the US.

It is to be shown alongside seven or eight pieces by the artist which originated in London, Palestine, New York, and two other undisclosed locations.

All of the artworks are expected to sell for between 750,000 and one million US dollars (£626,000), Mr Barton added.

He went on: "The unsolicited work that first appeared on the wall of an amusement arcade in Folkestone, Kent, was the subject of a number of attacks, including one where a cartoon phallus was applied to the plinth, now thought to have been the work of the artist on a second clandestine visit to this sleepy seaside town."

He said the Goddens were "no longer prepared to carry the burden of protecting the work'' and sanctioned its removal to coincide with the closing of the town's art Triennial.

All proceeds of any sale will go to the Jim Godden Memorial Cancer Trust created in the memory of local businessman Jim Godden whose widow owns the wall where the artwork was applied and is herself an active fundraiser.

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