Credit Simone Rathlé
In a vast and pitch-black warehouse in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans one day recently, the only illumination came from the headlights of a white SUV. They were trained on “Looters,” an image painted by the notorious street artist Banksy on a 1,200-pound, squarish chunk of masonry.
A local real estate developer, Sean Cummings, was giving a sneak peek of his prize, which depicts two National Guardsmen making off with a TV and a boom box and putting them in a shopping cart. The stencil-and spray-painted image, which Banksy did during a post-Hurricane Katrina visit in 2008, was painted on one of Mr. Cummings’s buildings in the adjacent Marigny neighborhood.
But then others put graffiti on top of it. “You could say that vandalism got vandalized,” said Mr. Cummings, who thought it was worth saving, so had the wall torn out and replaced when he sold the building.
For the last couple of years it has been under wraps. With the actor Hill Harper, his “Looters” co-owner and a frequent business partner, Mr. Cummings commissioned a conservation, treating it like a fresco by Piero della Francesca instead of high-end graffiti.
On Saturday, the spiffed-up piece is to be revealed to coincide with the opening day of Prospect New Orleans, the triennial art exhibition. Held at another of Mr. Cummings’s Bywater properties, the exhibition space Studio BE, the unveiling will include a screening of Colin Day’s documentary “Saving Banksy” and a panel discussion featuring Mr. Harper and others.
“There’s no paint from us on here; we didn’t seek to restore it,” said Mr. Cummings, who plans to temporarily display the piece at International House, a local hotel he owns, after Thanksgiving. “It’s not pristine. It’s an architectural artifact that tells a story about the patina of New Orleans.”