Banksy on Display

Rescued Banksy Art Finds New Home in Detroit

Wall Street Journal April 25, 2012

By MATTHEW DOLAN

DETROIT—A street-art painting taken from one of Detroit’s most famous industrial ruins is finally making its public debut—in jail.

The image, painted on a cinder-block wall at the old Packard auto-plant site, is believed to be the work of the elusive street artist Banksy. It shows a boy holding a can and a paintbrush, and alongside him the words, “I remember when all this was trees.”

On Friday, it will be displayed publicly for the first time in nearly two years, at a former Southwest Detroit police station that is being converted into an art studio and gallery.

The artwork has been hidden since artists from Detroit’s 555 Gallery took the painting, wall and all, in the name of protecting it from scavengers or demolition.

In May 2010, artists from Detroit’s 555 Gallery took the painting, wall and all, in the name of protecting it from scavengers or demolition at the blighted Packard site. They have kept it hidden ever since.

Amid publicity over an Oscar-nominated documentary about Banksy, the Packard site’s owner in 2010 sued the gallery to recover the artwork, estimated to be valued at more than $100,000. The legal dispute, along with the debate over the proper place for street art, was the subject of a March 9, 2011, page-one article in The Wall Street Journal.

Carl Goines, director of 555, said this week that the two parties had settled the case for $2,500, paid for by gallery supporters. Court records show the case concluded in June, clearing the way for the painting to come out of hiding. A lawyer for the former plant’s owner confirmed the settlement.

Artists at 555 say they hope the piece will draw Detroiters and out-of-towners alike to their new “creative community” at the former police station, where they plan to turn holding cells into art studios and a basement shooting range into a concert venue.

The artists who kept the Banksy piece say they have no regrets about the painting’s removal or the legal fight it spawned.

“But there are a couple of things I’d do differently now,” Mr. Goines said. “I think I’d call a lawyer first.”

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