Banksy mural theft foiled in New Orleans after suspects posing as removal workers tried to steal ‘Umbrella Girl’
The suspects reportedly said the painting was being moved to London
A man in New Orleans called the police on Friday after suspects allegedly posing as art removal experts attempted to steal a mural by the graffiti artist Bansky.
By the time the call was made the two suspects had gone, leaving the mural intact.
The artwork, locally known as Umbrella Girl or Rain Girl, depicts a mournful girl holding an umbrella from which rain pours on to her as she extends a cupped hand into the open air around her.
Photographer Cheryl Gerber noticed plywood had been erected around the painting on her way home from work on Friday.
She asked a man sitting at the back of a nearby rental truck what was going on, to which he replied: “Oh, the picture is going to London for a big show”.
She returned home and posted a photo showing a wide gap above the painting which was hidden behind a plywood screen, on Facebook.
Her message read: “Bye Bye Banksy! My neighbourhood's most famous little girl is moving to London”.
People walk past a plywood barrier protecting a mural by the artist Banksy, in New Orleans.
Clay Lapeyrouse, the operations manager at Louisiana Fresh Produce, was alarmed when he saw the post.
When he asked the suspects to show him their permits for working on the building, they could not provide any but told him the building's owners wanted to send the painting to a museum.
“They couldn't tell me who the owner was or the name of the museum,“ Mr Lapeyrouse said, adding: “I called the police and called every authority I could think of in the city.”
Mr Lapeyrouse said he stayed to guard the mural for as long as he could, but finally left to get his dogs from day care.
When he returned the men had gone, but he stayed in case they came back. More neighbours arrived and Mr Lapeyrouse said he also tore down the plywood screen.
John Guarnieri, office manager at an architectural firm and a board member of the Bywater Neighbourhood Association, said eventually a former tenant of the building arrived and was able to give the name of the owner's lawyer.
Police spokesman Officer Garry Flot said an investigation into the incident has begun but the identities of the suspects remain unknown.
A guard is now protecting the painting and a new plywood shield has been put up, neighbours said.
New Orleans resident Charlie Varley, who grew up south of London, also saw the man chopping at the wall.
Mr Varley said the man told him he was a Los Angeles ”art handler“ working for the building owners, who were sending it to the Tate Modern - one of four Tate museums holding Britain's national art collection.
Banksy, whose works have sold at auction for as much as £660,000, created the mural after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
It is among a dozen made in 2008 in the US state of New Orleans by the mysterious artists, many of which have been painted over or destroyed.
Tate spokeswoman Jeanette Ward said there ”are currently no plans announced to include the work of Banksy in an exhibition“.
Additional reporting by AP
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Germany sees 'visible rise' in support for far-right extremism in response to perceived 'Islamisation' of the West