British neighborhood wants its Banksy back

Updated 22 February 2013
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British neighborhood wants its Banksy back

LONDON: A London neighborhood wants its Banksy back. A stencil by the famed but secretive graffiti artist of a young boy sewing Union Jack bunting on an antique sewing machine appeared on the side of a north London bargain store last May. Soon the gritty Turnpike Lane area was drawing art lovers keen to see Banksy’s typically cheeky take on the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the British throne.
Last week it vanished, leaving nothing but a rectangle of exposed brick — only to reappear on the website of a Miami auction house. Listed as “Slave Labor (Bunting Boy),” it is due to be sold Saturday with an estimated price of between $500,000 and $700,000.
London authorities concede the sale is probably legal — the mural was on private property. But they hope moral pressure will make the auction house change its mind.
“(It’s) totally unethical that something so valued should be torn without warning from its community context,” local lawmaker Lynne Featherstone said.
Featherstone said she had asked the building’s owner for an explanation, but had yet to receive a reply. Poundland, the store that occupies the building, said it had nothing to do with the removal.
On Wednesday, the local government authority appealed to the auctioneer for the return of the work.
In an open letter to auction house chief Frederic Thut, Haringey Council called the artwork “a much-loved local landmark” that had been visited by people from around the world.
“We understand that there may be nothing illegal in the way this artwork was quietly removed from our streets and put up for auction by you in Miami,” the letter said.
“But for you to allow it to be sold for huge profit in this way would be morally wrong, and completely contrary to the spirit in which we believe it was given to our community.”
Councilor Alan Strickland said the work had become “a real symbol of local pride” in an area badly hit in England’s August 2011 riots. He said its disappearance had left residents “shocked and angry.”
Strickland said he had asked England’s Arts Council for help retrieving the work.
The government-funded council called the loss of the Banksy “a shame,” but said there was little it could do. The council has the power to stop the export of culturally significant artworks, but only if they are more than 50 years old.
Fine Art Auctions Miami said it had acquired the work legally, but gave few other details. It said in a statement that it had “done all the necessary due diligence about the ownership of the work.”
“Unfortunately we are not able to provide you with any information by law and contract about any details of this consignment,” it said. “We are more than happy to do so if you can prove that the works were acquired and removed illegally.”
Banksy’s publicist did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The anonymous street artist, who refuses to reveal his real name, began his career spray-painting buildings and bridges in his home city of Bristol in southwest England. His often satirical images include two policemen kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words “Laugh now, but one day I’ll be in charge.”
Original Banksy works now sell for up to hundreds of thousands of dollars and the artist has become an international celebrity. He has created sequences for “The Simpsons” and directed an Academy Award-nominated documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”
His works are still sometimes obliterated by zealous local officials, street cleaners or — as in this case — taken off buildings along with a chunk of wall for private sale.
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Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless


Ancient musical instruments get an airing in Athens

Updated 21 June 2018
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Ancient musical instruments get an airing in Athens

  • The phorminx, the kitharis, the krotala and the aulos — string and wind instruments reconstructed by musical group Lyravlos — echoed among marble statues in Athens’s National Archaeological Museum.
  • Music was an integral part of almost every aspect of ancient Greek society, from religious, to social to athletic events.

ATHENS: Hymns sung to the Greek gods thousands of years ago resonated from ancient musical instruments in Athens on Thursday, transporting a transfixed audience to antiquity.
The phorminx, the kitharis, the krotala and the aulos — string and wind instruments reconstructed by musical group Lyravlos — echoed among marble statues in Athens’s National Archaeological Museum as part of World Music Day celebrations.
A family of musicians, Lyravlos have recreated exact replicas of the ancient instruments from natural materials including animal shells, bones, hides and horns.
Music was an integral part of almost every aspect of ancient Greek society, from religious, to social to athletic events. Today only some 60 written scores of ancient Greek music have survived, said Lyravlos member Michael Stefos.
Stefos said they interpret them as best they can, relying on the accuracy of their recreated instruments.
“Joking aside, ancient CDs have never been found,” he said.
Their performance included a hymn to the god Apollo, pieces played at the musical festival of the ancient Pythian Games in Delphi and during wine-laden rituals to the god Dionysus.
Michael’s father Panayiotis Stefos, who heads the group, travels to museums at home and abroad studying ancient Greek antiquities and texts in order to recreate the instruments.
“Usually each instrument has a different sound. It is not something you can make on a computer, it will not be a carbon copy,” said Stefos.
The difference with modern day instruments?
“If someone holds it in their arms and starts playing, after a few minutes they don’t want to let it go, because it vibrates and pulsates with your body,” he said.
French tourist Helene Piaget, who watched the performance, said it was “inspiring.”
“One sees them on statues, on reliefs, and you can’t imagine what they might sound like,” she said.
World Music Day is an annual celebration that takes place on the summer solstice.