Banksy's Sperm Alarm

Banksy's stolen Sperm Alarm on Ebay

London man stands accused of cutting the piece from a hotel wall and offering it for sale on the auction site

A 32-year-old London man was accused this week of removing a Banksy artwork from the exterior of a London hotel and offering it for sale on Ebay.

The piece, Sperm Alarm, featuring 15 sperm silhouettes swimming towards a red sprinkler alarm, was chiseled from the four-star Hesperia hotel in Victoria in February last year and offered online by the Ebay seller 'LeonLeon', between February 9 and April 4 2011, with a starting price of £17,000. Hotel staff spotted the listing, and alerted the police. Earlier this week 32-year-old Leon Lawrence, of Convert Garden, London, was charged with handling stolen goods and attempting to convert criminal property.

Despite the modest price tag, the Banksy work went unsold. This will come as no surprise to street-art insiders, as the work was not authenticated. Banksy, via his handling service, Pest Control, certifies genuine works, greatly aiding their sale. However, it is Pest Control's policy to never authentic street art, regardless of provenance. A selection of Banksy street art failed to sell at Southampton gallery last year after Pest Control turned down authentication requests. If Mr Lawrence had kept a closer eye on the art press, perhaps he would have seen (groan) the writing on the wall.