Banksy artwork to go on display

Bicester Advertiser: David Stinchcombe, a youth centre leader, moved the Banksy artwork from a wall in Clement Street, Bristol David Stinchcombe, a youth centre leader, moved the Banksy artwork from a wall in Clement Street, Bristol

A Banksy artwork removed from a wall by a youth club has been handed to a city council and will now go on public display.

Mobile Lovers, showing two lovers embracing while checking their phones, was attached to a plank of wood screwed on to a wall in Clement Street, Bristol.

It was removed from the wall, believed to be owned by Bristol City Council, hours after its location was discovered by workers at the nearby Broad Plain & Riverside Youth Project.

The youth club, run by Dennis Stinchcombe MBE, 58, installed the piece in a corridor and invited members of the public to come and view it - with donations optional.

Mr Stinchcombe had planned to sell Mobile Lovers to raise funds for the youth club, which is attended by 1,000 youngsters every month and requires £120,000 to survive.

But yesterday, after speaking to officers from Avon and Somerset Police, the youth club decided to hand the piece to Bristol City Council.

George Ferguson, the mayor of Bristol, said the piece would go on display at the City Museum and Art Gallery.

"I'm delighted that Dennis, who is a good man, has made a tough judgment call and has turned over the artwork to us, via the police," Mr Ferguson said.

"No-one's the bad guy here, we simply need to buy time to establish where ownership lies, what Banksy's intentions might be, if we were to get some signals, and how best we can move forward.

"I have established with our legal and museum services that we can move ahead on this basis so that, hopefully, it will be on show for people to enjoy at the City Museum and Art Gallery over the Easter weekend.

"It certainly would have been a cultural crime if this artwork had been lost to the city.

"I'm also asking if Banksy could provide a limited-edition print which could be sold in aid of the club.

"In the meantime we shall be working with a local publisher to produce postcards and prints for sale in aid of Broad Plain Boys' Club.

"And I have asked for a collection box at the museum for them. This hopefully will represent a win-win for everyone."

Mr Stinchcombe first spotted Mobile Lovers on Monday but did not realise its authenticity until Tuesday.

He took the decision to remove the piece, on Tuesday afternoon, after guarding it and becoming worried about vandalism and it being stolen.

The piece was installed in a corridor in the youth project, where dozens of visitors paid donations from a few coins to £5 notes to view it yesterday.

Engineer Paul Messenger, 52, from Bristol, brought his 90-year-old mother Dorothy Messenger, to view Mobile Lovers.

Mr Messenger and his mother said they did not object to paying to see the piece, as the money was going to a good cause.

"I don't mind at all. It can make money for a good cause," he said.

The removal of the artwork was also welcomed by Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West and Minister for Communities and Local Government.

"It's great to see Banksy active in his home city once again," he said. "I'm sure he would want the Riverside Youth Club to benefit from his latest work.

"Money is always tight for youth clubs so I hope Dennis and his team raise lots of money if the picture goes to auction."

Mr Stinchcombe, who has been a youth worker for 40 years, received death threats from art fans after he revealed plans to sell the piece to raise money.

He handed the piece over to police, who returned it to the council, yesterday evening.

A screen print of Mobile Lovers has been installed in the artwork's original home, a boarded-up doorway overlooking the busy A4032 road into Bristol's centre.

The discovery of Mobile Lovers comes days after a piece depicting three 1950s-style agents listening in on conversations in a telephone box appeared on a house in Cheltenham.

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