When a 2011 collaboration between Stik and young local artists in Poland shows up for sale in a London gallery, it’s revealed that the commissioning organization never obtained the proper permissions before the works were painted. The gallery cut apart the metal shipping containers the figures were painted on—some in places where the figures had been holding hands—and staged an exhibition of the works. The police are now investigating their removal, but three of the figures were recently taken off the gallery’s website, presumably because the pieces were sold.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS, GDANSK:
2011 — Work is painted
- Stik collaborates with a group of young local artists to create 53 of the artist’s signature stick figures, stretching a total of 150 feet.
- The figures were painted along the side of metal shipping containers that were used to store canoes for a local sporting club—the containers were said to be owned by a local school.
- The collaboration was funded by the city and the British Council, the piece was commissioned by the Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art as part of a festival of British culture.
- Stik and Laznia enter into a contract that granted Laznia a limited license to make use of the work for educational and promotional purposes only, and the school—the supposed owners of the containers—consented to their use in the project.
2014 — Work is sold without the artist’s knowledge
- A man claiming to be the true owner of the containers, Bogdan Iwaniak, sells them to an agent of Lamberty Art Gallery in London for the equivalent $4,600—an ostensibly legal transaction if Mr. Iwaniak is indeed the lawful owner of the containers, and not say, the owner of the land the containers were on.
October 2015 — Offending gallery stages an exhibition of the stolen works
- Sixteen of the figures, cut into ten separate sections, are offered for sale by Lamberty. Each set of figures are estimated at being worth between £10,000 and £12,000 ($15,441-$18,530). They’re being sold as part of the so-called “Stik Exhibition.”
- The gallery is found to hold 46 of the original 53 stick figures, and a statement on Lamberty’s website declares the gallery has a “close working relationship with the artist” and that “all of Stik’s street works…are fully approved by the artist for sale.” *This statement was granted by the artist in relation to two charity sales the gallery had conducted on his behalf years prior.
- It was later revealed that the Laznia Centre never made an agreement with the owner of the actual shipping containers, and Stik was unaware this formal permission was never secured.
- Lamberty requests that Stik recognize and endorse the removal of the pieces created solely by Stik, in exchange for the return of the works decorated by local children. The gallery’s statement even accuses Stik of “painting on private property.”
- While the gallery claims Stik has not acknowledged this offer, in an interview the artist openly rejected it, refusing to authenticate any of the Gdansk mural pieces on the grounds that the pieces had been cut up without his approval, and the money from the sales is not going to the local community.
As of 2017 — The removal of the works is being investigated by the police
- If Stik’s work is regarded under UK law, the containers could be considered protected by Stik’s copyright authorship—an author’s moral rights protect against derogatory treatment, which could have occurred when the pieces were cut apart and sold without notifying the artist. Some pieces had even been cut apart in places where figures had been depicted holding hands.
- The sale not benefitting the community could also be considered an attack on Stik’s reputation, as the artist only authenticates street pieces when one-hundred percent of the money goes back to the community.
- “It was not meant to be cut up and sold,” the artist told the Polish street art blog Sosm.
- Some of the young people who helped make the mural have formed a group called Graffiti Ladies, and have launched a community petition, supported by Stik, that’s calling for the return of all the works.
- As of January 2017, three of the removed pieces, titled Family, Pair, and Little Yellow, were offered for sale on Lamberty’s website, who now consider themselves the largest dealer of Stik’s secondary market. By August the works had been removed, presumably because they’d been sold.
“It was not meant to be cut up and sold”
- Herman, Alexander. “Street artist and community fight for dismembered mural.” Institute of Art & Law, December 18, 2015.
- “Stick Statement, News.” Lamberty website.
- “Fundraising.” Stik website (Artist website).
- “’It was not meant to be cut up and sold’: Interview with Stik.” SOSM, January 25, 2017.