In Australia .... Banksy street art of a parachuting rat is destroyed by pipes being put through that spot.

In Australia .... Banksy street art of a parachuting rat is destroyed by pipes being put through that spot. Photo: Teagan Glenane

It's the small community revolt which could have a big impact on the international art world, as part of a dispute over who really owns a Banksy work up for sale.

It emerged earlier last week that a Detroit gallery plans to sell a piece by Banksy, the elusive but highly lucrative British street artist, which the gallery seized from the nearby dilapidated Packard Plant car-manufacturing site soon after it appeared in 2010.

The gallery removed the 2.5 metre, 680 kilogram wall, featuring the work which has the figure of a child with a bucket of red paint and a brush alongside the message, "I remember when this was all trees", and installed it for public viewing at its site.

But now the piece, which could sell between $200,000 and $1.2million, could provide a vital but controversial windfall for the volunteer-run 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios, which runs on less than $US70,000 a year.

Fairfax, however, was contacted on Wednesday by two Detroit men claiming to be the real street artists behind the work, with one penning an email bearing the subject line "Detroit Banksy isn't real, I know who did it".

Although the two remain insistent it is their work, the piece is almost certainly a genuine Banksy piece. But the pair's attempt to sabotage the sale and continued correspondence with Fairfax are a reflection of the anger felt by the local community over a "stolen" work which is now being sold for profit.

Matthew Naimi, who along with Carl Oxley, claims to be behind the work and told Fairfax that the gallery had got away with taking the item, but had crossed the line when it came to putting it up for sale.

"Street art is placed or created in a certain space by an artist. This space is integral to both the meaning of the piece and by extension, its value," he said.

"The gallery ignored this concept when it was removed. They violated the public trust ... when they put the piece on sale."

The gallery's executive director Carl Goines said the money would contribute hugely to the local arts community.

"Proceeds will allow us to create a budget for programs, pay artists to teach, purchase materials and supplies, expand within our facility that we rent to provide more studios for artists, pay our volunter staff part time wages, and establish a permanent home for artists," he said.

"Even if we can't have the Banksy authenticated and someone locally wants to claim authorship to block a sale, it's been recognised as a Banksy by the public worldwide and brought attention to the important work we do as artists in Detroit."

The sale of Banksy works taken from public spaces has long been a source of great contention.

In February, a mural titled Kissing Coppers, taken from the wall of a British pub in 2004, sold to a buyer in Miami for $575,000. In 2012, a mural Slave Labour was torn from the wall it was sprayed on and later sold for $1.1 million despite massive protests from the local council and community.

Australia hasn't fared very well, with Banksy works with a stencil image Parachuting Rat painted over by council workers in 2010, with another version accidentally destroyed by builders in 2012.

Bill Dimas, co-founder and director of the Ambush Gallery which specialises in street art, said selling the work without the artist's consent is wrong.

"The original intention of the artist is to offer the work for free to the public to see it on a public wall, not to be removed by anybody to sell it. "That's the nature of street art: it's a gift back to people. The intention is to simulate thought, creativity, politics — it's a form of putting out a social message."

Sydney street artist Shannon Crees was the only Australian invited to participate in Banksy's Cans Festival in 2008 agreed that Banksy's street work was meant as a gift to the public.

She said taking it and profiting from it "is a huge juxtaposition to everything that Banksy speaks out about in his artwork".

"It's sad that now his work is valued that people become greedy and see it more as money value than the value it has to society and a viewer," she said.

"How do you out a value on art? It's only on supply and demand, and hype. This just shows that it can make worldwide news, and no one would have ever imagined that graffiti on an abandoned building wall could be worth millions of dollars."

Crees will one of the artists taking part in a live street art demonstration on March 22 at .M Gallery, Woollahra, as part of the From the Street exhibition which runs until April 27. See mcontemp.com.