Hamtramck Banksy an April Fools’ Prank to Remember

April 2, 2014
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Not to put too fine a point on it, but of course we knew all along that the “Banksy” that was spotted on Commor near Sobieski in Hamtramck was an April Fool’s Day gag. It was the handiwork of Hamtramck’s Hillary Cherry. Those who know her from her regular appearances at Hamtramck City Council meetings may not be aware that she pulls off one heck of an April Fools’ Day prank, and she was kind enough to let us in on it on Tuesday morning.

Needless to say, not wanting to spoil a good joke, we carried the news in an April Fools’ Day blog post of our very own, willing to up the ante on this very topical joke.

You see, Hillary Cherry had been planning this prank for quite some time, ever since she learned that 555 Gallery had negotiated the sale a piece of artwork — widely believed to be by the British graffiti artist Banksy — it had removed from the Packard Plant. That removal had provoked a spirited debate about monetizing the work of a countercultural icon who bends ideas of the law and property.

So Hillary thought it would be a fun prank to have another “Banksy” appear in her neighborhood. Working with an artist, she hatched a plan for the work to appear on the community bulletin board affixed to the side of a house she and her husband, Steve Cherry, own. The work actually went up about a week ago, and it must have taken great will power not to bring the artwork to other people’s attention until the big day. The wording on the work, “Perhaps 666 was taken,” was clearly a jibe aimed at the appropriation done by 555 Gallery.

This Facebook post, early in the day, by Frank Woodman hits perhaps the right balance between skepticism and wonder.

This Facebook post, early in the day, by Frank Woodman hits perhaps the right balance between skepticism and wonder.

For everybody in on the joke, the prank was an absolute laugh riot all day Tuesday, and almost totally destroyed our productivity here at the Metro Times offices. Hillary monitored the billboard and took photographs all day long, and told us that at least 50 people came by to see the work, take selfies in front of it, or, more ominously, check the mounts for the feasibility of removing the art.

Two unidentified people don't take selfies, but check the mounts and fasteners.

Two unidentified people don’t take selfies, but check the mounts and fasteners.

Hillary tells us she spent most of the day “laughing my ass off” while, perhaps most when she witnessed a group of young neighborhood children pull up on their bikes and say, “That’s worth $1 million! It’s by the most famous graffiti artist in the world!”
Even the popo get curious.

Even the popo get curious.

Adding to the joke was the fact that Pest Control, the website that helps Banksy-watchers identify authentic work by the street artist, was down for the day. The Cherrys speculate that Banksy must have known there would be a hoax or two, but what’s certain is that the website’s disappearance didn’t offer people any clarity.
Again, another comer doesn't take selfies but examines the work, perhaps too hungrily.

Again, another comer doesn’t take selfies but examines the work, perhaps too hungrily.

We joined the Cherrys last night to check in on the prank. Remarkably, even after the blogosphere seemed to have declared the work a fake, people were still trying to steal it. Chalk it up to the desperate times in our region: The prospect of an inch-thick piece of plywood being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was just too irresistible for some. At around 9 p.m., a man was seen lurking around the artwork armed with a screwdriver, behaving furtively and basically appearing to be the most incompetent thief in the world. When some latecomers came by to photograph the work, he scurried into an alley, and later appeared to be pulling on it with his hands. He gave up, spooked by visitors, and Steve found the area around the fastening screws had been damaged.
Taken at about 11 p.m. last night, evidence of a would-be art thief in the form of a backed-out screw.

Taken at about 11 p.m. last night, evidence of a would-be art thief in the form of a backed-out screw.

For a moment there, it appeared that the joke had spiraled so out of control that the Cherrys could have become victims of their own gag, if some credulous but enterprising art dealer armed with a reciprocating saw decided to acquire the work by any means necessary.
If people will try to take anything they think is a Banksy, we've discovered a new way to get rid of unwanted furniture.

If people will try to take anything they think is a Banksy, we’ve discovered a new way to get rid of unwanted furniture.

Luckily for the Cherrys, the building was undamaged this morning, and it seems that any last-minute appropriationists would have to be remarkably poorly informed to tackle the job. Congratulations to Hillary Cherry for a wonderful April Fools’ Day goof, one topical enough to have some pretty hifalutin overtones, and edgy enough to create its own controversy.

Somehow, we imagine this is the sort of thing that makes the real Banksy grin.

For a slideshow of Hillary Cherry’s photos of visitors to the “Banksy” yesterday, click here.

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  • Coleman Young

    Go back to Cleveland.