Police have arrested two men in Folkestone in connection with the theft of a copy of Banksy’s graffiti artwork ‘Art Buff’, The Guardian reports.
The original piece was the subject of a groundbreaking legal dispute in 2015. Dreamland Leisure Limited, the tenant of the property on which the mural appeared in 2014, cut it out of the wall and sent it to a New York gallery for sale. Determined to save ‘Art Buff’ for Folkestone, arts charity the Creative Foundation took legal action against Dreamland on the advice of specialist art lawyers Becky Shaw at Boodle Hatfield and Tim Maxwell now at Charles Russell Speechlys. In a judgment handed down on 11 September in The Creative Foundation v Dreamland Leisure Limited  EWHC 2556 (Ch), the High Court held that a tenant was not entitled to remove a Banksy mural from the wall of its leasehold property and must deliver it to the Creative Foundation.
According to the Creative Foundation’s marketing manager, Ioannis Ioannou, the original ‘Art Buff’ is safely in storage and the stolen work appears to have been a copy by local graffiti artist Robsci. Installed on Saturday (13 August) on a chipboard awning in the garden of a derelict building in Folkestone, the new work depicts the same woman in ‘Art Buff’ staring at a plinth with the addition of a cactus, the words ‘return to sender’ and signed ‘Robsci by Banksy’. On Sunday morning (14 August), police officers spotted two men apparently attempting to steal Robsci’s piece. One man, Joshua Tyrell, was charged with drink driving but was bailed and is due to appear in court on 21 September. The other, a 29 year-old from Ashford, was arrested on suspicion of theft but was released without charge.
The Creative Foundation are planning to exhibit the original ‘Art Buff’ in Folkestone in 2017.