not all those who wander are lost

Metro Times cover story this week – BANKSY in DETROIT !

Cover photo and wide shot by detroitfunk.

Great story about the Banksy paintings, broken by the good folks at Metro Times. I just walked into the middle of it already in progress and showed what I saw. In my original post, I was applauding what 555 was doing – and I still am. I can appreciate the many arguments against what they did, or how they did it. All valid arguments, for sure.

On WDET during the Craig Fahle show, (Click HERE to listen) Travis from Metro Times, and some guys from CPOP got on to discuss graffiti in its proper context, and the ideas behind putting such a thing in a gallery context. Again, many good arguments raised by Travis, but since 555 is not yet available to discuss their views on the situation – I felt that this conversation lacked any advocacy for 555.

So let me throw out some things just to balance this discussion a bit. From an art world, and art history standpoint. I believe what 555 did was valid, and important. (legalities and otherwise are a different topic) The people who did the Craig Fahle show never saw the actual Banksy or the location that it was installed.

This painting was not done inside any building. This painting was not on a wall of a building. It was actually done on a mostly demolished wall in a demolition site. The painting was viewable from Bellevue Avenue which is a public street, without entering any buildings.

This installation was not on an abandoned building, or on any building. It was painted on rubble in a demolition site. Now look at the above photo. Do you see demolition perimeter fences, signage or any EPA air quality measurement devices around this demolition site ? Neither do I. The Banksy was in the middle of that wide open area to the right.

This is “Big Slumpy”. 6 stories of collapsing steel re-enforced floors, all sliding down by the rail road tracks running along this cemetery. This is part of the Packard. The people who own THIS are the ones who presumably own the demolition site where the Banksy was saved.

Had the Banksy not been removed, it would have been demolished to retrieve the scrap metal beams attached to its bricks. It would not have been “tagged” or “blown into the wind” like a “sand castle”. It would have been gone in a few days to the land fill.

The CPOP fellas said that taking a Banksy was like capturing a “wild animal” which makes it not right. Well, the CPOP guys need to visit a zoological park and do some reading about how they really function. Captive breeding in zoological parks is what keeps most endangered species from being extinct. And it allows for education and study of creatures the average person would otherwise never see.

So yes, for that exact reason – just like a wild animal – a Banksy can be caught and preserved in captivity to avoid extinction.

And yeah, CPOP, taking a wild animal and stuffing it for people to learn from DOES have an historical precedent, check out a guy called “Audubon“. His studies are what modern bird-life preservation is based on.

If nothing else, who here has not captured a firefly in a jar just to stare at it for a moment ? Even though you know you should not.

As for the assertion that some young aspiring tagger might find the Banksy and be inspired to higher levels of social commentary……well, now that can DEFINITELY happen, since the Banksy is preserved along with photos of its original context. Not just to two or three stumbling through demolished rubble at Packard, but countless people can see it and be moved by its importance.

Behold the Temple of Dendur in Egypt. Swallowed by the floodwaters of the Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam. “Saved” by the Egyptian government, and given to Jackie Onassis Kennedy to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

Do you think Jackie Onassis Kennedy would have turned this down, because it betrays the intention and context desires of the original designer ? Do you think the original intent of this temple was a lighted backdrop for cocktail parties and fund raisers ?

Did we steal this ?

I am willing to put 555 on that level with Jackie O.

If they are both thieves in your mind, so be it.

As for “artists intent” and “context” issues – please show me how many things in the Detroit Institute of Arts were designed by the artist with the explicit intent of being preserved in a museum. Oh, yes, there is Diego Rivera and such. But how about all that other stuff ?

Check out this charming little dragon from the Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylonia, now at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit.

Should we really “own” this Sirrush ? Hanging a chunk on the wall in a greatest hits museum in Detroit could not be what the artists and patrons who created the Ishtar Gate had in mind.

Should’nt we give this back to Iraq so they can take it out in the desert and throw it in the sand ? Because that’s what would have happened if people let it take its natural course.

Or we could learn from it, and inspire centuries of generations of people ?

I say the actions took by 555 to preserve the Banksy have precedent in the art world, and I believe that in the final analysis what 555 did was a very good thing. There are obviously some details to be worked out on their end with whatever legal issues, but from an art standpoint I say they are legit.

If MOCAD can be a museum with temporary installations like a gallery, is it so far fetched to have a gallery with permanent installations like a museum ?

No, it is not.

Oh – here is a P.S. below:

Anybody remember the “Eggs Money” phase back in about 2005 ? Well here is an original piece by “Eggs”. It was a nail up thing, stuck to the side of the now cremated Studebaker Plant in Milwaukee Junction on Piquette Street. I took it down and “saved” it before it was tagged or burned. It is now preserved here in my dining room – although this particular “saved” piece has the blessings of the artist after the fact.

Keep y’alls banksys and what not from out of town- of all the stuff out there in Detroit, this is the one I have in my home and live with. I have a couple smaller pieces by Rodeo and Fars, but they had never been actual installed graffiti.

I dig Banksy, and I get the hype. Im just saying, this is the one I have on my wall – and its a hometown writer.

No – it’s not as cool as when it was screwed to the side of Studebaker, but it IS around for people to still see. It does not have all of its original value and power as a contextual piece. But it has different, and more sustainable positives now – here in captivity. This is my firefly.

20 Responses to Metro Times Cover

  • i dont get what the huff is all about, while everyone is arguing about the “meaning” of a wall, some guy in nyc destroyed all 6 nyc banksy pieces, some within hours of being reported. all photographed including action shots, some video’d including broad daylight hits in full full of the public. whats up with the so called threats, nobody cares, its been well documented that lots of recent banksys all over the country and canada have been vandalized. the gallery should grow a pair and just admit they are now sitting on something possibly worth alot of money, maybe 500 years from now they will be applauded or maybe two weeks from now they will be rewarded with a nice fat paycheck.

    i suggest everyone whos complaining look into the fate of lots of other banksys and just thank the gallery for doing something about it.

  • “Bottom line, they stole a beautiful and unique experience from all of us, our city, and our arts community as a whole.. supporters included. Bottom line, they did not have, nor did they even seek the permission of Banksy.”

    They didn’t seek permission from Banksy? Who’s Banksy, what about myself, and the few other local cats that had handstyles and a 2 letter throw on the back of that same wall?

  • “Anybody remember the “Eggs Money” phase back in about 2005 ? ”

    Me- that was my time in Detroit. When I first found dfunk….and learned about eggs and money and so mmuch more.

  • It’s my opinion that there are few absolutes in this world, and art and how it’s treated probably doesn’t pull rank. I can’t believe I heard a discussion on graff and it’s merit on npr, and in the free press. A whole demographic has been exposed to contemporary markings of man that is alienated from the white walls, and absent in the blogosphere. And of the four pieces he did the one at the packard has by far initiated the most discussion, because of it’s movement. Yes it was a temporal piece in an environment, and look the temporal piece no longer exists. The picture however will be seen by hundreds of thousands all over the world. Banksy for the masses exists in pictures, and nothing done destroys that. I dug what you wrote dfunk and agree with all to the contrary aswell, but reflecting on the big picture created from the removal, I’m sold that what 555 did was legit. Man, they just did one of the most covered performance environmental blah blah pieces in recent years in our town. And it helps that no one could be caught saying a bad word about 555 before this, and that they are the most diverse group in town.
    -just couldn’t keep it in anymore.

  • Thanks MEan

    BTW – my point in bringing up legalities at all, in relation to the phrase “two wrongs do not make a right”, is that what we have here are THREE wrongs not making a right. There are three parties involved: Banksy,Packard and 555. Inherent in my points about the Packard site is that it is probably an illegal demolition site, and is certainly the Mother of All Code Violations.

    No party has clean hands, all for different reasons.

  • sounds like youve got a good woman there heheh… ;)

    yeah, feel free to email me. thats my home email addy.

  • Well HELL dude – you shoulda thrown down your credentials even sooner, that is some good shit. (is this your real email ? – I have some questions about some of the artwork in my cousins estate)

    I have a BFA in classical painting and art history from CCS here in Detroit. I am a painter, but have never done a bit of graffiti in my life. I still take it as seriously as any painting in a gallery.

    Naw, you guys all got me from clapping and saying “bravo” to taking a serious fucking look at this issue. That is what makes a good conversation. I dont just shoot my mouth off, I also listen, and I hear.

    For the record:
    Mrs dFunk is 100% on your side the whole way, she cried “bullshit” from the get go and has not wavered. Mrs. dFunk has a BFA in sculpture, an MA in art education and a teaching certification. She ranks me.

  • gotcha…all good. im over it, i just hope they do the right thing…whatever that may be. ive been an art consultant in nyc for over 10 years and ive worked in the art restoration field for many years as well. that on top of being an artist myself, compelled me to voice my opinion…for what its worth :/ …done :)

  • yeah, well lets just sat that i am also extremely curious what 555 has to say about everything when the dust clears !

    i assumed they had permission the first time i posted. i did not get a chance to talk to them on site when it was happening, because i got called away on important business. my defense of their action overall is a completely academic one.

  • i love this blog, and i respect 555 gallery though i dont know them personally. im sure they are great people (they have to be to be supporting the arts). but, this situation is different…and i feel like you are defending the people who havent said a word but a single statement regarding what they are trying to do AFTER the fact.

    i wasnt yelling…:) i apologize for the caps.

    the fact that in the past banksys authentication service (pest control) has deemed artwork taken from its original location and context counterfeit is all the comment you need from him for this situation.

    the trespass issue is somewhat irrelevant i feel. especially in a structure that has been sitting in ruins for decades. its micro when the issue of taking someones creative projection and installing it in your own gallery without their consent is macro. and also, by your argument alone you incriminate 555 gallery even more because not only did they trespass…THEY TOOK A HUGE FUCKING WALL lol. a pice of the actual property left with them…oh, and also…you were trespassing too ;) but so was i the next day when i went to (try) to see it :/ i dont think any of that matters tho.

    anyway…at least im here defending my feelings on the subject. thanks for taking the time to blog about it.


  • “Banksy did trespass, and we are back to the original vandalism issue when sticking to your strict arguments.”

    But two wrongs don’t make a right…….

  • travis – not CPOP, animal reference – gotcha. same point.

    otherwise. yeah, ive never disagreed with many of these points you are making.

    is this even a new issue in the art world ? hellno. Same shit happened with THESE GUYS

    Banksy did trespass, and we are back to the original vandalism issue when sticking to your strict arguments. Banksy did not own the pile of garbage he painted on, and has not shit to say about what is done with it after he “vandalized” it. Social commentary, or no.

    Banksy ALSO is unavailable for comment, to defend himself or explain his actions – due to his anonymity. Because what he does is certainly a crime.

    And dont yell at ME – I only took a photo and left footprints, like youre supposed to. hahahahaha ! Just kidding.

    But yeah, you both did slice up some of my arguments..

  • “I felt that this conversation lacked any advocacy for 555.”

    that is because they didn’t show up. they were offered the chance and they dodged the discussion of what happened with a statement addressing what they are doing to back peddle. the point of the discussion was to answer the question “WHY?” did they move it. obviously they know they messed up so they are trying to contact the owner and make it seem legit…blah blah.

    travis is the one who made the animal reference, you should listen more carefully.

    there is no jealousy involved. its purely defending the right of the art to be in the place it was intended for BY THE ARTIST.

    and for 555 to gain this amount of PR to have people come to their gallery during their hours to see art from an artist they DO NOT REPRESENT…is theft of another kind.

    555 gallerys own mission statement is to nurture and facilitate LOCAL UP AND COMING artists…what business then do they have taking the artwork of a famous foreign artist who made a site specific piece.

    anyway…everyone is entitled to their own opinion but the fact of the matter is an artist who is STILL ALIVE and still working put a piece of art in a location that he intended it to be. and someone decide to take it. $$$ if banksy wanted or needed his work “preserved” he would do it somewhere else…are people that ignorant?


  • You’re all forgetting a few vital aspects of this debate. Preservation in museums of art that is old, ancient, etc. is not the same situation that 555 has found themselves and put us in.

    Were the original artisans available for contact in many of these stellar examples?
    Were any of these amazing examples removed from the site by an outside entity IMMEDIATELY following their installation? The Sirrush of Babylon, if removed from the wall while the glaze was still drying without prior consent, would have bought the perpetrators a death sentence.

    Bottom line, they stole a beautiful and unique experience from all of us, our city, and our arts community as a whole.. supporters included. Bottom line, they did not have, nor did they even seek the permission of Banksy.

    All arguments are moot when this vital point is taken into account. NOONE had the right to remove those pieces for any reason. They should not be applauded for this travesty. There is no excuse, and that’s all that’s been offered to explain this chain of events; weak excuses and justifications that pale against the overwhelming tide of disgust and dissent that 555 has brought upon themselves as a direct result of their actions.

  • What a great blog post! Well reasoned and expertly presented. I agree with you 100%. I think the CPOP guys are just jealous they didnt think of it and act first.

  • Indeed, very well said.

  • Well spoken—they should have let you write the newspaper article.

  • DFunk, very well put. If all the art work in museums were placed in their original “context” I am afraid we would wind up with a shed in some guys backyard in Omaha.

  • I really liked the photograph of “Big Slumpy”. I was especially impressed with the contrast of the growing trees/greenery with the structural collapse of the parking garage/architecture (did I spell that right?).
    I pick up Metro Times every Thursday and I’ll be checking this article out.

    HJK- sounds kinda professional, but really isn’t

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