Stealing a Banksy in Detroit

Anonymous British graffiti artist and provocateur, Banksy, recently passed through Detroit, leaving at least three pieces scattered throughout the city. And, one of those pieces, entitled “I remember when all this was trees,” is in the news today… It appears as though our friends at Gallery 555 stole it.

bildeThis photo, taken by Jason Matthews for the Detroit Free Press, shows Gallery 555’s Carl Goines and Monte Martinez dismantling the crumbling Packard plant wall recently marked by Banksy.

Following is a clip from the Detroit Free Press:

…The move — a guerilla act on top of Banksy’s initial guerilla act — has sparked an intense debate about the nature of graffiti art, including complicated questions of meaning, legality, value and ownership. Some say the work should be protected and preserved at all costs. Others say that no one had a right to move it — and that the power and meaning of graffiti art is so intrinsic to its location that to relocate it is to kill it….

The folks at 555 Gallery and Studios know that not everyone agrees with their decision to move the mural, but they’re adamant they did the right thing. They don’t want to sell it or squirrel it away like a keepsake. They want to protect it and keep it on display for all…

Personally, I’m not sure what to think of it. Part of me agrees that the context was critical to the piece. Another part of me, however, is thankful that Carl and Monte assembled a crew to go amid the ruin and rescue it. I’d be curious to know what Banksy thinks of it. My guess is, as long as they didn’t take it with the intention of reselling it, that he’d be OK with it, but who knows? Maybe he’s pissed. And, maybe his opinion shouldn’t matter, anyway, as he didn’t own the wall. Once you’re in the world of vandalism, do ordinary rules apply? I’d like to stay up and think about it, but I have to go to sleep now.

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  1. Knox
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    If we’re voting, I say the 555 were in the right.

    At least I find what they did a lot less egregious that what art dealers used to do in the subways of New York, collecting the works of Keith Haring and selling them for tons of money.

  2. roots
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I agree with Knox…I think.

  3. Samsa
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I’m still contemplating this, in part because of mention that there is no intent to hoard/sell, but I do lean on the other side. There are other precedents at stake. Such as: who else could claim this “authority” in the future? And, as mentioned, how much does the location play into the display as a whole?

    I found it to be a beautiful sentiment among such severe wreckage. What other sentiments are at stake?

  4. Brackinald Achery
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    You forfeit the right to your own property when it, by it’s existence, doesn’t respect others’ property rights. Graffiti artists have no right to bitch.

  5. Edward
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    As it’s all built around vandalism, it’s kind of hard to be judgmental. I’m not angry with 555 now, but I reserve the right to change my mind later, if I hear that they’ve sold the piece to a private collector.

  6. Kim
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    The thing that’s criminal is the fact that the owners of the property allowed it to get this way in the first place.

  7. Samsa
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Kim, I agree. The piece in it’s original location called attention to that notion.

  8. Andy C
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Does the 555 move all good street art or just stuff done by famous people? They have the right to move it but they’re being way to self righteous about it and missing the whole point of public art. I think it should have stayed where it was. Now I want to go to the 555 and paint over it. I’m sure it’s insured for thousands. Maybe the owner of the Packard plant will sue them for theft. It is officially theirs.

  9. applejack
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m against their moving it. Sure they might not sell it, but ‘keeping it on display for all’ presumably means keeping it in their own gallery so that people will come in to see it. I mean it’s better than the guy that went around splashing paint on Banksy and other artists’ work, but it still ain’t right. Why not take some high quality photographs of the piece in its original site and hang that in your gallery instead?

  10. Tony
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Anyone want to go with me to take a wall from the 555 gallery?

  11. MEan
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    so its ok for a gallery to get PR and gain massive amounts of attention and invite people to view it at THEIR gallery when they dont even represent the artist? no, no its not. i call bullshit on anyone claiming this isnt just greed masked under noble intention. its been taken out of its desired context and is therefore useless. would you take an warhol out of a gallery and put it in the street because YOU think it will be safer? no, because the warhol belongs in the gallery just like the banksy belongs in the “street”…after all he DID put it there and not in 555 gallery.

    this is a non-profit gallery whos very own mission statement is to nurture LOCAL artists. why then would you take a well established famous foreign artists work out of the place he put it and bring it to your gallery? the very nature of the work welcomes the possible decay or defacing of it…its part of the life and personality of his work.

    “preserve” lol…

  12. Andy C
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Amen MEan!

  13. Edward
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    OK, I’m being swayed.

  14. Samsa
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Haha – yes! I’ll be chilling on this side of the fence.

  15. notoneofthecoolkids
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    It was wrong for the gallery to move the painting. Part of the impact of this piece of art is the surroundings that the artist choose to paint it in and on. To remove it is to remove the impact of the work itself. If the painting was left where the artists intended it to be then interested people would make the trip to see it, and then perhaps that trip would wake more people up to the plight of Detroit and perhaps it would spur a clean up or revitalization of the area. I think removing it removes the artist original intend.
    The gallery could have easily screwed a high quality plexi glass cover onto the cement in order to preserve the painting in it’s original location.

    Speaking of Art, has anyone else seen the TV commercial for the new reality show that’s purpose is to pick the “Best Artist”? What self respecting artist would participate in that kind of show…not any good ones I know. Makes my stomach turn.

  16. Meta
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    A second Banksy is stolen in Detroit:

    For the second time in a month, a mural at the derelict Packard Plant created by the internationally known British graffiti artist and provocateur called Banksy has been excavated from its original site. Except this time, it was removed by agents working for a partner of the building’s owner.

    The 6-foot painting of a yellow canary was carved out of the wall at the Detroit plant and carted away Thursday. The crew who carried out the removal left the message “The canary has flown its coup” in red letters next to the hole. Pete Adamo, 57, of Clarkston, a speculator and developer affiliated with the building’s owner, Romel Casab, said he had the mural moved.

    Adamo also hired a security detail of four men to guard the work 24 hours a day since Saturday, when a story about the Banksy ran in the Free Press, prompting a swarm of curiosity seekers and, according to Adamo, vandals who wanted to sneak into the plant and destroy it. “I hired the guards to protect it, before it was defaced,” said Adamo, who said he was worried about liability if someone got hurt.

    Read the rest:

  17. Posted July 9, 2010 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    A followup piece in the Freep shows just how messy a question this is:

    Detroit officials seek Packard plant owners: Lawsuit may reveal persons who can be accountable for site

    Detroit –The city is promising to force the owners of the decrepit Packard Motor Car Co. plant to demolish or secure it, bolstered by a new court filing that provides clues about the owner.

    Bioresource Inc. sued 555 Nonprofit Studio and Gallery on Tuesday, asking a judge to force it to return a mural by famed graffiti artist Banksy that it removed from the plant. In the lawsuit, Bioresource Inc. claimed it owns the Packard Plant and that Romel Casab is the company’s president.

    Casab has been rumored to be owner of the plant for years. But prior to the lawsuit, the only owner or agent of Bioresource on record was Dominic Cristini, who is in prison in California on Ecstasy charges.

    Casab said Thursday that city officials “would have to prove it,” but didn’t clarify what he meant. When asked by a reporter if he is the owner of the plant, he said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

    State records show Bioresource dissolved in 2003 and that’s its last agent was Cristini.

    The ownership of the Packard plant has been in dispute for years.

    So we have a business that doesn’t exist, filing suit in the name of a guy who denies involvement, against some guys who removed a piece of graffiti from a collapsing factory that nobody really knows who owns. And the suit claims, what, that these guys vandalized this property by removing a piece of prior vandalism, when the mere ownership of the property itself is perhaps the largest act of vandalism is metro Detroit?

    Totally awesome.

  18. Kim
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    This is the kind of stuff that should make it into that new network cop show shot in Detroit. It’s fascinating stuff and it clearly demonstrates some of the huge issues we’re facing in the city. But, they’ll probably stick to murder.

  19. Larry Seven Larry
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    The second piece that Banksy did in Detroit is now up for auction on Ebay.

  20. Andy C
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Here it is.

    I like the new art on the wall where the original piece was.

  21. Elf
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    The court case over this piece appropriated by the 555 is getting national press coverage.

  22. Kim
    Posted September 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    The courts have spoken, and the piece belongs to the 555.

    Remember the controversy surrounding the mural by the British graffiti artist called Banksy that was discovered at the Packard Plant?

    Well, after spending most of the past year in storage while a lawsuit over its ownership played out, the mural — which shows a forlorn boy with a can of red paint and the words “I remember when all this was trees” — is headed for public display in Detroit as early as November.

    Artists at 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios received clear title to the mural as part of a $2,500 settlement reached earlier this summer with the company that owns the decaying Packard Plant in Detroit. Gallery artists had removed the painting in May 2010 to prevent what they said was its certain destruction, and they said they were given permission to take it by an on-site foreman. The plant owners sued to have it returned.

  23. Meta
    Posted March 7, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    OK, now they’re selling it.

    Now the folks at the nonprofit gallery, which survives on a slim budget of $70,000, want to sell the valuable 1,500-pound cinder-block wall to finance new education programs, provide more studio space and ultimately invest more in budding local and visiting artists, volunteers said publicly for the first time in an interview with Motor City Muckraker.

    “The Banksy isn’t our identity,” volunteer executive director and co-founder Carl W. Goines told us. “Our focus has always been on giving artists and others an opportunity to create and grow. We can better serve the community that way.”

    Read more:

  24. Posted March 8, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I can see their logic, but they’re going to take a lot of heat for this.

    It reminds me, in some weird way, of the MASH episode where Charles was so pissed off to discover that expensive chocolates that he’d donated to a Korean orphanage were sold to US servicemen instead of being given to the children. He was told that, for the money that the sale of the chocolates brought in, the children could eat for months, instead of just one day, and it made him look like a jackass for yelling. It was a dumb, obvious plot line, but, for whatever reason, it’s stuck with me over 30 years. (I prefer the episode where Klinger attempted to eat a jeep.) At any rate, it’s something to consider. I’m still not happy about it, though, and I suspect there will be a backlash. I haven’t really been involved since I was a member of 555 back in the Ypsi days, but I wish them well.

  25. Elf
    Posted July 30, 2015 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    It’s going up for auction in LA.

  26. Frosted Flakes
    Posted July 30, 2015 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Every cent of the sale should be given AWAY to charity. Until that happens I do not wish 555 well at all.

  27. Meta
    Posted October 2, 2015 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    It sold at auction for $137,500 at auction in Los Angeles.

    Southwest Detroit’s 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios sold the piece after displaying it for years at its Vernor Highway art space.

    The gallery now plans to use the proceeds from the sale to start the transformation of a 30,000-square-foot building on Detroit’s east side into its new art space.

    “It was lower than some of the estimates, but we’re really happy with what we have,” said Carl Goines, co-founder of 555 Arts, who was in Los Angeles for the auction.

    “… It’s been a long journey and an experience having the piece.”

    After the stenciled mural was carved out from among the crumbling walls of the sprawling former auto plant and transferred to the gallery, there was heated debate in Detroit’s art community about whether it should have remained in the environment it was created.

    Gallery supporters insisted they excavated the piece to protect it, and initially said they had no plans to sell it.

    But Goines said the need to create a permanent space for artists without the burden of rising rental rates in the city sparked the decision to sell the mural.

    Attributed to the elusive British street artist known as Banksy, the work known as “I remember when all this was trees” sat on display at the Southwest Detroit gallery for several years after the group settled a lawsuit raised by the former owner of the Packard Plant.

    Now the group is saying goodbye to the piece, and to its Vernor Highway rental space in favor of a building the organization owns on East Warren Avenue.

    “There’s no regrets,” said Goines. “Really, it’s about taking the next steps forward and moving forward in the most positive way possible.”

    Julien’s Auctions, which facilitated the sale, described the piece as “one of Banksy’s most poignant examples of American street art.”

    The winner bidders were California couple Steven and Laura Dunn, according to David Rudolph, a spokesperson for 555 Arts. The final cost of the piece was listed at $137,500, including a premium charged by the auction house.

    Steven Dunn is founder and CEO of Munchkin, a company that sells products for infants and toddlers.

    Attending the Wednesday auction was a surreal experience for Goines.

    “Going from myself standing in the Packard Plant in a foot of water excavating the piece to now being in Beverly Hills taking part in the auction is a strange experience,” he said.

    “I think it all kind of fits artists and Detroit in the end. I couldn’t imagine a better outcome.”

    Read more:

  28. Lynne
    Posted October 2, 2015 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I bet this costs 555 more than $100k in bad feelings.

  29. Posted October 2, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, my guess is that they thought it would go for more. Hardly seems worth all the bad publicity for only a little over $100,000.

  30. Frosted Flakes
    Posted October 2, 2015 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Completely unethical even if it sold for 10 million.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Maynard, pot & box. pot & box said: RT @MarkMaynard …stealing a banksy in detroit: […]

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