A group of young people in Gdansk are calling for the return of a public mural they helped create with the British street artist Stik in the Polish city in 2011 that was cut into pieces and ended up for sale in a London gallery. They have launched a petition demanding that the owner of the gallery, Andrew Lamberty, a star of Channel 4’s Four Rooms, “do the right thing” and send the work back.
The bitter dispute began in 2014, according to the petition, when the work was removed without Stik’s permission from the Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, which had commissioned the artist to create the mural on two shipping containers outside the pubic gallery. The non-commercial project was funded by local organisations as well as the British Council.
Stik tells The Art Newspaper that neither he nor the Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art were consulted about the removal of the work, titled To Skomplikowane (It’s Complicated). “The Polish authorities were informed and are still investigating,” Stik says.
Lamberty, meanwhile, tells us he bought the containers “entirely legally, with full documentation” through a Polish agent. “He informed me the site of the containers was eventually due for development, [and] that there was nowhere for them to go,” the London dealer says. He adds that Stik did not have “formal permission” to decorate the containers, which were private property. Lamberty says his gallery has more than ten pieces by Stik, some formed from the Gdansk mural, priced at £18,000 each.
The dealer says he has offered to return the works that were painted in collaboration with the local young artists, plus “two or three of the vignettes from the other container”, as long as the Polish authorities “find a suitable place to exhibit them”.
Stik says Lamberty made this offer on the condition that the artist authenticate the remaining pieces, which he refused to do “on moral and legal grounds”. Stik maintains that “this is a community mural and should be returned to the community in its entirety”.
In the petition, the young artists express their wish for the mural to not be commercially exploited or put up for sale. “The artwork we made with Stik was about community and being together but it has been cut up. Now it's about splitting community to make money, a sad symbol of today’s world,” they say.