Owner of Banksy painting ‘committed to preservation and protection,’ attorney says
Fans of the British street art superstar Banksy will be relieved to learn that the owner of the artist’s beloved “Umbrella Girl” mural on North Rampart Street means it no harm.
According to a representative of Mantua LLC, the company that owns the building where the painting is located, “the owner remains committed to the preservation and protection of the mural.”
On Jan. 5, art lovers went on high alert as news spread that a pair of workmen were drilling holes in the cement wall behind the “Umbrella Girl.” Some feared that the 16-year-old artwork, which is located on a long-unused building on North Rampart Street, was being removed or even stolen.
They were justified in worrying about the fate of the painting. Banksy is arguably the most famous living artist on the planet and his paintings routinely sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In 2014, thieves posing as workmen attempted to cut the valuable graffiti mural from the wall and spirit it away. Fortunately, the robbers were frightened off before completing the job.
But on Jan. 5, the New Orleans Police Department determined that there was nothing illegal going on. The workmen had been hired by the building owner to perform the tasks that alarmed onlookers. According to attorney Robert S. Abdalian, who wrote via email on behalf of Mantua LLC, “the owner has authorized the work on the building, which is being prepared for renovation and habitation.”
“The building,” Abdalian explained, “is being evaluated for structural integrity and remediation if necessary.”
The poignant artwork depicts a rain-soaked child whose umbrella not only leaks but is actually the source of a downpour. The stencil painting, which was one of approximately 14 murals produced by Banksy in 2008, is presumed to be a metaphor for New Orleans’ levee system which failed during Hurricane Katrina.
Since it first appeared, the whimsical stencil has been a magnet for graffiti lovers who routinely admire the aerosol painting and pose for selfies at the site.
Soon after it first appeared, the “Umbrella Girl” was protected with a clear plastic sheet, applied by self-appointed caretakers, who feared the artwork would be vandalized. They weren’t wrong. Several of Banksy’s paintings were tagged or overpainted and in 2020 a graffiti writer broke through the “Umbrella Girl’s” Plexiglass barrier and and attacked it with scarlet paint. Banksy fans swiftly removed the paint and she survived.
According to Abdalian, Mantua LLC has helped the painting persevere. “For over a decade,” Abdalian wrote, “the owner’s mission has been to preserve and protect the mural with the support of many neighbors.”
But, he said, “during the time the mural has been on display, it has been exposed to the elements and has been vandalized. It requires conservation.”
The long-unused building at 1434 N. Rampart St. where the “Umbrella Girl” is located was once the Drop-In Center, a community refuge for teens. Documents taped to the building indicate that the Safety and Permits Department approved $125,000 in work on the structure.
According to the posting, the building has been vacant 20 years, and the proposed future use would be an art gallery and studio. The Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office website says the property is valued at $249,500.
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