A mural by British graffiti artist Banksy has been put up for auction on a US website with a guide price of up to £450,000 (HK$5.4 million) after being removed from a building in north London.
The artwork of a barefoot boy using a sewing machine to stitch union flag bunting, apparently in a sweatshop, appeared on the exterior wall of a Poundland store in Wood Green in May.
It was widely interpreted as condemning child labour and mocking the impending queen's diamond jubilee celebrations.
Haringey councillor Alan Strickland said locals were angry at the mural's removal and urged people to e-mail the auctioneers to demand it be removed from sale. It was discovered to have been removed at the weekend and later emerged for sale with Fine Art Auctions Miami.
By Monday afternoon, the auction website said there had been three bids, although their value was not revealed. Bidding for Banksy Slave Labour (Bunting Boy). London 2012, described as "stencil and spray paint on render with additional jubilee bunting", closes on Saturday.
Poundland said the company was not the owner of the building and had not removed the artwork. The store tweeted: "We would like to confirm that we are not responsible for either selling or removing the Banksy mural. We are currently investigating."
Strickland said the owners of the building had been identified as Wood Green Investments and he was trying to contact the company, whose registered office is in Essex, southeast England, to find out what had happened.
He claimed that even if the mural had been removed by the owner of the premises, it was still not acceptable.
"We see this as our artwork in our community," he said. "Banksy has given this for free to our community, and even if the company technically owns it, it's not theirs to sell."
Fine Art Auctions Miami owner Frederic Thut told British tabloid The Sun that it was being offered for sale by a well-known collector, whom he refused to name. "The collector signed a contract saying everything was above board," Thut said
The picture was popular with Wood Green residents and had attracted tourists to the area, with signs put up at the local tube station directing visitors to the mural. It had also been covered with acrylic to protect it.
One resident told Haringay Online that the artwork had been surrounded by scaffolding and tarpaulin since last Wednesday. She said she found it had been removed a few days later when she checked under the tarpaulin. The wall was subsequently re-rendered where the mural had been.
In the past, Banksy has declined to authenticate works attributed to him that were up for auction because of a belief that street work should remain in its original location. In 2011, the Banksy artwork Sperm Alarm was ripped from the wall of a London hotel. It was then put up for sale on eBay for £17,000. It was never recovered.