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« Who the Heck is this Becks Davis Chick? | Main | Detroit Moxie's Weekend Roundup »

Banksy in Detroit: The Debate Continues

Diamond Girl by BanksyFamed street artist Banksy tagged Detroit and 3 of the 4 known pieces are now gone. Well, at least they’re not in their native habitat where Banksy intended them to be. Intense debates are going on online and in the real world on whether this was an act of preservation or unadulterated theft.

“I remember when all this was trees” was excavated/stolen from the Packard Plant by the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios. This moron, claiming to be a fan, started Diamond Girl’s removal, I'd like to know the rest of the story. The Boy on the Beach at Canfield and Cass was quickly painted over. Only Tightrope Rat remains.

The Craig Fahle Show on WDET talked about the Banksy piece taken by the 555 Gallery today. They invited to the 555 Gallery to participate or comment and this is the statement they received:

"Thank you for inviting us to participate in the discussion. We are excited that there is such a lively debate regarding the excavation of the Banksy piece from the Packard plant. At this time we are in talks with the owner of the Packard Plant regarding the status of the piece and are not free to participate in public discussion at this time. We look forward to continuing the conversation and dialogue around the piece into the future. We welcome all opinions and hope that all those interested will visit us at our current location…"

Banksy’s work gets stolen, removed, or painted over all the time. A quick search led me to pieces in L.A. and New Orleans that were removed. Some idiots are trying to make a profit and others are attempting to making a statement.

This is street art, people! Let it live (and die) on the street.

Through all this fervor I was reminded of a quote I found while researching Graffiti Alley. Katherine Tombeau Cost painted the original mural under Graffiti Alley that was whitewashed. In an article in the Ann Arbor Chronicle she said,

"The thing about public art it is an exercise in letting go. You put it out there and you know it is not forever. I have to remind myself this isn’t my family room. That is the element of public art. It will be great and it will be gone."

The folks over at Perfect Laughter suggest we celebrate the artists we have here in Detroit instead of just getting all hyped up about Banksy. Banksy showing up in Detroit, or any city, is big news but let’s not forget about the abundance of creativity and talent of our resident artists.

OK, I’m done. I know I’ve been talking about graffiti and Banksy quite a bit in the last few weeks. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Unless, of course, another Banksy appears in Detroit.

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Before he was gagged and sounding lawsuit-skittish (not free to participate in public discussion at this time), here's how 555 Gallery founder Carl W. Goines justified his crew's so-called excavation to Freep photojournalist Romain Blaquart:

Scrappers had been pulling down the buildings around it. It was in imminent danger, and that's why we decided to move forward.

So, if I understand this correctly, they became scrappers to save it from scrappers.

In other words, they had to remove public art to save public art.

Anyone else here old enough or well-read enough to recall "we had to destroy the village to save the village"?

[ The 1:26 Freep video was posted May 17 at ]

May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Stamm

Great insight, Alan. It really doesn't make any sense to me. As you said, they became what they were trying to save it from. Really, what it comes down to is greed. They may be a non-profit but look at all the media attention they have received so far.

The phrase "we had to destroy the village to save the village" sounded familiar but I did have to Google it. I'm not old enough, the quote is from over a year before I was born. ;-)

May 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I wondered when someone would ask why we're spending so much time discussing Banksy when we could channel some of this new-found interest in art into supporting some of great local artists. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Banksy, his art, and its removal from the Detroit sites...but if anything good is to come of all this, I hope it will be an increased interest in, and support of, local talent.

May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

Smart point, Dominique. This awareness-spreading debate ideally should open eyes to art all around us.

In his blog yesterday, Freep editorial writer Jeff Gerritt boldly suggests the city give taggers "access to a public site where they could work and maybe even get paid" -- if "this underground community" agrees not to mar freeway overpasses and other high-visibility sites.

Far-fetched, he acknowledges:

It’s clear that shot-callers don’t have a clue that urban art could actually promote the city. . . . It’s the kind of cool that government planners can’t manufacture. Public art can stimulate urban redevelopment, the way Chazz Miller’s murals are doing in northwest Detroit.

[ His full post: ]

May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Stamm

Great observations, Dominique and Alan. I've been wanting to do a post on Chazz Miller since I saw him speak at TEDxDetroit, so stay tuned.

Alan, I saw what Jeff Gerritt wrote about giving taggers designated areas. I don't think that will work, especially for the long term. Part of the "game" is to tag in the riskiest areas without getting caught.

May 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Detroit Graffiti Belongs in its Natural Habitat!/group.php?gid=118392558197391

May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBlake

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