A Banksy mural that has been steeped in controversy since it was discovered in 2010 sold at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills Wednesday, according to USA Today. The mural, which was found by urban explorers among the ruins of Detroit’s Packard Plant, sold for $137,500 — which is actually somewhat of a disappointment, given that the auction house’s pre-sale estimate ranged between $200,000-$400,000.
— Detroit Free Press (@freep) October 1, 2015
Still, Carl Goines, the executive director of the gallery that excavated the piece, has said, “I did everything I could not to set any expectations. What we have now is so much more than we’ve ever had in the past.” The gallery will pocket $110,000, which was the winning bid; the $137,500 includes a buyer’s premium. Steven Dunn, CEO of Los Angeles based Munchkin Inc., purchased the mural, which will now permanently reside on the West Coast.
Created in the famous artist’s familiar, stenciled style, featuring a boy holding a paint can and the hand-lettered words, “I remember when all this was trees,” the mural was initially only believed to be a Banksy. Then photos of it showed up on the anonymous artist’s website after its discovery; experts consider this to be definitive proof that the mural is a Banksy original, and not the product of a copycat artist. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg of issues surrounding this piece.
The furor really began when artists from Gallery 555, a non-profit Detroit gallery, excavated the cinder block wall that holds the piece. The 8-foot, 1,500-pound mural was moved to save it from being destroyed by bulldozers that were clearing the site of the old plant. However, due to the fact that the mural is street art, critics likened its removal to total destruction, also calling the artists who moved the piece thieves.
Meanwhile, the gallery pledged not to sell the piece, but to have it up for display. Then the owner of the Packard Plant partnered with a company to sue for ownership rights, given the potentially high value of the piece. The gallery won the suit and paid $2,500 for clear title.
It seemed as though the story might end here; however, in 2014 the gallery announced that the work was for sale. Much of the original debate was roused by this announcement, and those that had been placated by keeping the mural on view in Detroit again lost trust in the gallery.
Gallery 555, which is a grassroots organization with an all-volunteer staff, does plan to put the money to good use. According the Detroit Free Press, they hope to turn a 30,000 square-foot, empty warehouse into a versatile arts space. It would become the permanent home of the gallery’s exhibitions, as well as residencies and community programs.
Says Goines, “The money will provide more space and resources for artists. It’s a positive step forward and that’s the No. 1 priority for us.”
(Image via Twitter.)