Following popular demand and a lengthy legal battle, the Creative Foundation has successfully managed to secure the return of the Banksy for Folkestone.
The Banksy, ‘Art Buff’, appeared overnight on a wall in the heart of Folkestone’s Creative Quarter during the 2014 Folkestone Triennial, and was stated by the artist to have been given as ‘Part of the Folkestone Triennial. Kind of’. The Folkestone Triennial is a major art event run by the Creative Foundation, a charity which promotes creativity and the arts as part of the regeneration of Folkestone. ‘Art Buff’ quickly became a popular local attraction but, sadly, that was not to last. The tenants of the building, Dreamland Leisure Limited, a company linked to the Godden family, arranged for ‘Art Buff’ to be cut out of the property before the Triennial had ended. The mural was shipped to the US and offered for sale.
The removal of the Banksy led to public outcry as well as to calls for it to stay in Folkestone, including by Damian Collins MP who raised the issue in the House of Commons. The Creative Foundation decided to take legal advice from Boodle Hatfield LLP’s Tim Maxwell and Becky Shaw, and barristers John Machell QC of Serle Court and Adam Rosenthal of Falcon Chambers, and to try and rescue the Banksy for the town. It took an assignment of the title to ‘Art Buff’ and of the right to bring a claim for its return, and started proceedings against Dreamland Leisure Limited and others. In early 2015, the Creative Foundation successfully obtained an injunction in the High Court against Dreamland Leisure Limited and Jeremy and Jordan Godden, preventing them from selling or otherwise dealing with it, and subsequently providing that it must be moved to and held in a specialist safe storage facility. The Creative Foundation then, in an attempt to expedite matters, reduce costs, and avoid the need for a full hearing, sought summary judgment to determine whether the Folkestone Banksy should be returned to Folkestone.
A hearing to determine these issues took place on 30 July 2015 before Mr Justice Arnold. After hearing arguments from both sides, Mr Justice Arnold reserved his decision, which was handed down in the High Court today.
Mr Justice Arnold held that, once ‘Art Buff’ had been cut out and removed from the building, it belonged to the landlord of the property, and not to Dreamland Leisure Limited, which was the tenant. The Creative Foundation, which had taken an assignment of the landlord’s claim, is therefore entitled to the return of ‘Art Buff’.
Alastair Upton, Chief Executive of the Creative Foundation, says, “We are delighted with the outcome of the legal proceedings. The Banksy will be coming back to Folkestone, where it will be looked after and shown to the public along with the Folkestone Artworks, a collection of the best of the exhibited works from each Folkestone Triennial. It will be enjoyed both by people of the town and visitors to it. Many local people had asked us to do our best to ensure that the work returned to Folkestone and we worked hard towards this. It should have never been removed. I look forward to the day, which we will be announcing soon, when we will be welcoming “Art Buff” back to its rightful home.”