Detroit Banksy could sell for more than Packard Plant

March 11, 2014
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Members of the 555 Gallery interviewed by the Wall Street Journal in 2011 after removing the Packard Banksy mural (photo from 555 Facebook).

Back in 2010, I remember hearing the news that the elusive British street artist Banksy had been in Detroit, using the city as his urban canvas. At that time, the artist’s name was buzzing after the popularity of his acclaimed documentary, Exit Through The Gift Shop — or was the graffiti-tour part of the marketing for the film, and was Bansky himself behind his own documentary? The artist, whose identity has been kept secret from the public, became a faceless face of the street art community — a post-modern prank that is as impressive as it is humorous.

If you’re a patron of street art, you may have felt a bit honored that Banksy would consider coming here to leave his mark. You may have even ventured out to snap photos before they were washed away or covered up. However, one piece was taken from its original spot by the 555 Gallery in Southwest Detroit — an 8-foot painting of a young boy holding a paint can and brush next to the message, “I remember when all this was trees,” at the site of the dilapidated Packard Plant. The 555 Gallery’s co-founder Carl W. Goines claims that it was out of a need to preserve the piece. Others defend that street art’s sole purpose is to remain in the street, in the original location where the artist intended, despite the risk of destruction.

Now, almost four years after Goines and his crew harvested the piece from its concrete cabbage patch, he is putting it up for sale. Goines has stated that they are “open to offers,” and that the proceeds would go toward expansion of the 555 Gallery. Once again, the issue is burning on tongues in Detroit’s art community and Goines is getting the brunt of it, perhaps deservedly.

In December 2013, the Packard Plant was purchased by Peruvian businessman, Fernando Palazuelo for the sum of $405k. The irony here is that a Banksy piece of this size, and notoriety, could easily sell for well over $500k. The 555 Gallery would be able to double its size, but at the possible cost of losing credibility. Obviously, there was no way to predict whether or not the piece would have been destroyed by any number of things, but that is not the point here. Shouldn’t street art be meant to be celebrated in the wild, for as long as it exists and not to be extracted and sold? After all, there’s got to be a reason Banksy doesn’t paint price tags on his murals.

  • juanjaviermanuel

    If the gallery cannot earn money, or get donations it does not deserve to double in size. If it can’t sell stuff, or get donations, that means its not wanted, needed, or liked. Ergo there is no need to double, except maybe the owners out of control ego.

  • Mr_Puppy

    This is ridiculous. They took the painting to “preserve” it and now they want to profit off their theft? The only way you can preserve street art is to leave it on the street. They should donate the painting to the DIA. I only wish I was a major benefactor of Studio 555 so I could withdraw my donation in protest. Their actions in every step of this situation have been wrong.

  • Art

    Unethical! Does this mean that I can rip out any wall at the 555 Gallery and sell it to the highest bidder in order to expand my garage? You sir are as bad as a scrapper and you personally helped contribute to the ruin of Detroit.

  • Anonymous

    “the proceeds would go toward expansion of the 555 Gallery”. Why should the proceeds go to this? Why shouldn’t they go towards rebuilding the dying city you stole it from?

  • Alan Stamm

    It’s spelled Banksy, as done correctly in story, but not so much in the headline.

  • The People

    Even if they canceled the sale today credibility is already lost. This gallery may double in size, but will go under when no one attends this unethical establishment.

  • Anton Lee

    i feel its not bad to sell the “peice”
    it just depends on how they go about it, and how funny the transaction is..
    and not in a sad,distasteful way like in “Exit Through The Giftshop”, with that one tool.

    as for 555, they could help invest in helping Detroit improve it’s transit system? :|

  • livininthed

    Matthew Naimi painted this.

  • bonobf

    Wow. The only reason they got away with stealing it in the first place was because they said if they didn’t preserve it, someone else would take it and sell it. Now, they are doing just that. Hypocrites. Thieves. Horrible corporate citizens. Banksy should lay claim to it and tie them up in litigation. There is no way that they should profit from theft. Who says they are the rightful owners of something that was created in the public domain?

  • Gango Banga

    If they know who stole the artwork from the factory why haven’t any arrests been made?

  • Carl B. Oxley III

    Why has one of 555 gallery’s founding members been forced out over this sale, and been replaced with some guys from California?

  • Carl B. Oxley III

    What Goines does not mention is that 555 is no longer being
    run by Detroiters or Michiganders even. One of the founding members has
    been forced out and some folks from California have taken his place..
    seems they call the shots now. Just good old fashioned outsiders coming
    in to ride the wave of Cool Detroit.

    Go ahead and accuse me of what you like, Right after you prove the above to be false.