2 Detroit artists claim they painted ‘Banksy’ mural that is up for sale

Two local artists are claiming they – not the world-renowned street artist, Banksy – painted a mural that was taken from the abandoned Packard Plant in May 2010 and is now for sale for as much as $1.2 million.

Matt Naimi
Matt Naimi

Matthew Naimi and Carl Oxley III said they created the 7-foot-by-8-foot piece after we revealed last week that the nonprofit 555 Gallery and Studios was looking to sell it.

“Carl Oxley and I painted that piece,” Naimi, director of operations at Recycle Here!, told me. “We didn’t say anything at the time of the fiasco as to who was the artist, as they seemed dead set on calling it a Banksy.”

Carl Oxley III
Carl Oxley III

Oxley is a former artist-in-residence at 555.

The pair’s claim is far-fetched, experts said, and most likely intended to sabotage the sale of street art that was never intended to carry a price tag. Banksy, an elusive and anonymous British graffiti artist, refuses to authenticate his street work. The arm charged with authenticating Banksy’s art, Pest Control, denounces the sale of his graffiti and refuses to authorize it.

The best indication of an authentic Banksy is its appearance on the artist’s website, where the Packard Plant piece was posted until artists at 555 Gallery and Studios removed the mural, which depicts a forlorn boy with a can of red paint and the words, “I remember when all this was trees.”

Until recently, the authenticity of the Banksy piece was rarely, if ever, questioned.

The market for Banksy pieces is hard to predict, in large part because of questions of authenticity. While Banksy murals have sold for six-figures, others have failed to sell.

Banksy once responded on his site, “I Can’t Believe You Morons Actually Buy This Shit.”

Volunteers at 555 expected criticism for their decision to sell the piece but did not anticipate the attempted sabotage of the sale. They said the nonprofit gallery barely survives on a slim budget of $70,000, which finances education programs, provides studio space and ultimately invests more in the local community. 

555_1025555 owns the piece after reaching a $2,500 agreement in a lawsuit with the owner of the Packard.

Gallery volunteers said they don’t plan to auction off the piece and would rather find a direct buyer.

555, which operates solely with volunteers inside a largely unused former police precinct on West Vernor, the bills must be paid. Without secure funding, 555 has bounced from cramped homes to warehouses to the Third Police Precinct, where about 14,000 square feet is unused and in need of work.

The studio has more than 30 resident artists, musicians, writers, nonprofit arts administrators and creative entrepreneurs. All of them chip in with repairs and renovations.

“The Banksy isn’t our identity,” volunteer executive director and co-founder Carl W. Goines told me last week.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • 同舟一

    what the fuck!

  • Enigma
  • Carl B. Oxley III

    It has recently been brought to my attention that 555 is no longer being run by Detroiters or Michiganders even. One of the founding members has been forced out and some folks from California have taken his place.. seems they call the shots now. Just good old fashioned outsiders coming in to ride the wave of Cool Detroit.

  • emma

    The real question is why does it matter who did it? Are you mad about them selling it altogether? Or are you mas that you aren’t the one who is getting publicity for the piece. Do you disagree with 555 using the money to fund itself? This is just further proof that ego > art.

  • Tammy Barbour

    I agree with Banksy that no one should buy the art that he creates from his own vision and not for profit. Generally. This is being used to help other artists and the Packard will be destroyed anyway. Eventually. Now that it’s been removed, enter two more artists who say it isn’t even his. Dramatically. Now, in making it commercial, it can no longer serve the original purpose, or even a noble purpose. Ironically.

    The very commerciality of something made to beg the question of nature being first may be wrong. Does it not betray the intention of the artist? It is interesting on so many levels. First, two white guys paint a picture of a black child holding evidence of doing something illegal. Yet, that black child is not only featured as a criminal, but he is also the hero in speaking up for his environment. There is great depth to this piece, and the controversy only makes it more interesting.

    And all that makes it interesting, also makes it more valuable and perhaps even museum worthy. As an African American, I am tired of three things. White people painting African Americans as criminals. This time literally. White people commercializing things which are not meant to be given a monetary value. And white people taking credit for creating something they did not create.

    It is my opinion that a black woman who is a mother and an artist painted it. An artist who is very rogue, secretive and not confident in drawing hands and feet. An artist who started off painting a Ninja Gaiden sort of hero and then realizing that painting an Asian trademarked hero – a commercial one at that, was not natural to the environment – stopped and instead dedicated it to the children who are forced to grow up with this monstrosity of a curiosity for tourists, part of Detroit and home, but not an ideal home, and for that child to ask you all a simple question. That artist is glad for the attention to the question, but wonders in all this controversy if ANYBODY IS CONSIDERING THE QUESTION of what has been done to Detroit??? Or do you just want to sell a painting and tear down a building to build more to make money without considering the people, ..that people live here.

    • I love your comment. Is the “black woman who is a mother and an artist” a particular person that you know?

      • Tammy Barbour

        Hey Abigail. I’m not sure at this time. However, I do see this as a self portrait. I mean, “guffaw” they are holding a paint can claiming to have written it. So whoever painted it must somehow see themselves in the Detroit child asking the question. Which is interesting if a white person with no connection to the City painted it. In that case, it is my opinion, they should not have painted the child with a paint can as if they are the one who is guilty of doing the crime of graffitti, (even being a great artist and asking a great question) ) but rather just painted the black child as if a child of the City is asking the question, but not actually caught doing the graffitti. The fact it does both makes it a self portrait, and yet all those given credit are white? And one is from another continent? Something is wrong with this picture. Excuse the pun.

        • Dust Buster

          let me be the first to apologize for whatever injustice “white folks” had to do with this my adivice to you, ms barbour would be to examine, with open eyes and mind what party, politics and policies have run and ruined detroit for almost 50 years.that should be the true focus of your rage and racial broad brushing.

          it holds true in most all major urban cities in america. death, mayhem, welfare, strife, crime, murder, disability claims,food stamps,abortion… they have a common denominator in that the same political party and same lock step voters pic the same slave masters that have built and ran the democrat run plantations for decades

    • Damn-Deal-Done

      By “great depth” do you mean “obvious metaphor”? Because that’s exactly what Banksy or Banksy style art is.

  • The DIA figured out how to monetize their art without selling it and so should 555. Let’s not have a pity party for 555, they let the art community down when they announced this was for sale, and they will get no sympathy for their failed attempt to do so.

  • Sudsy

    Watching you dig a hole is one of the best things I’ve watched in a long time! Thanks and good luck, Carl.

  • Dust Buster

    this is upsetting. artists fighting artists. its very similar to the classic “shakes the clown” starring bobcat goldtwaith and other pivotal actors. there is conflict between the mimes and rodeo clowns. robin williams makes a cameo as the coach of the mimes. this was one of the must see movies of the 80’s. anyway this reminds me of that movie. if it came out now they would say “the most epic film since the hangover 1”

    • Thanks for the recommendation. I love Bobcat.

  • churchchurchliquorstore1

    Oh, the drama…

  • EDG

    Anyone that follows Banky’s website knows that is the only legitimate way of verifying something is a Banksy. These guys are liars but I applaud them for sabotaging 555.

  • Jill Drnek

    Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if like, local artists produced art, and like, people bought it, and we like, actually had a real art scene, like, instead of getting hyped over people not from here producing art? just sayin….

    • Gary

      like Detroit is like not that cool of a city!

      • Jill Drnek

        LOL. Yeah. Anyway, happy Friday.

  • Gary

    I painted it

    • Ryan Healy

      tbh not that great a painting imo. sry bro

      • Gary

        Your keyboard allows you to completed write out words, brother

    • Tammy Barbour

      lol

  • EWS

    Yeah, let’s shake down the artists who use 555. Like the 10 year old boys who use the free Saturday art classes. What do they think they are entitled to? Charge studio rent space? Yeah, that worked. Some of the loudest negative voices I here on the interweb are artists making money that owe back rent to 555.

  • BrianPonzi Palmer

    Will it be sold for the city that used to be detroit’s debt?

  • Sudsy

    Are you serious posting shit like this?!

  • Sudsy

    Do have them and WILL put them out there when I’m ready to.
    I’m just gonna let everyone dig themselves in a bit more first.
    #iloveme #ihavescreenshotsandyoudont #haha

  • Sudsy

    Little buddy? Does that make you the skipper? Sucks being in the position you’re in, huh?

    • Carl B. Oxley III

      skipper would be awesome. what position is that? I am doing ok. I just made some Popsicle with fresh fruit. I’m pretty pumped up about it.

  • Sudsy

    You have a contract with the city of Detroit. To make money, for or not for profit, you make money. You are also claiming to be a vandal in the same city. Do you think that’s ok? Is that acceptable behavior?
    Is that any way to lead in your community?
    If I did something like what you are claiming to have done AND was in contract with the city I live in, New Orleans, LA, I would be tossed out of town by the citizens and left to wonder why I had such a big mouth. Hypothetically speaking of course:)

  • javierjuanmanuel

    “The pair’s claim is far-fetched, experts said, and most likely intended
    to sabotage the sale of street art that was never intended to carry a
    price tag.”

    Well we know the owner thinks $2500 is a fair price. I am sure he will sell it for that amount so it can be in a public place, right?

    No ?

    Then just steal it, do it in broad day light. Say you are doing it for public good, and he can’t stop you.

    If he complains have your lawyer send him a check for $3,500.

    Or just go tag the banksy. He thinks graffiti is so cool. He won’t object.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    Heres a crazy idea, why don’t the artists who take up space there pay the rent ?

    I want to know why the turd owner thinks he gets to double in size! Why is that a goal if you can’t pay your bills.

    This is not production, you can’t turn the dial on a conveyor belt, double the output of widgets, lower the unit cost, and now be profitable. First its a non profit, and doubling his size doubles his cost.

    This guy is over his head. The artists in there, taking up space if there are 30 of them, they all need to come up with 1-2-3 grand each, if its lower end and its 1 grand each, then the owner needs to pitch in about 20 grand, and they need to come up with about 20 grand in donations.

    • Toka313

      Just as an FYI – a pay-to-play gallery is a totally different animal, and 555 doesn’t have the stature to get away with that. http://www.artbusiness.com/osoqutscawas.html

      • javierjuanmanuel

        Ok. I admit i am not informed oh his operations finer details. I know if he is having cash flow problems, doubling in size makes things twice as bad.

        Its very linear. Also the artists if they want to stay, then they can “donate”.

        Someone needs to donate. If they do not charge, and no one donates, then the place needs to shut the doors, i do not care if it is this kids dream. He does not get to steal stuff, to fund his silly little project if no one cares.

        I know people will argue they care, well i suggest if you care, open your check books and write the guy some checks.

  • Sudsy

    Carl – Matthew Naimi is a vandal and so are you if his claim is true.

    • Carl B. Oxley III

      Yes. I suppose I am. good job little buddy. You’ve stated the obvious.

  • Carl B. Oxley III

    Sudsy, also worth mentioning that I voiced my true feelings directly to members of the 555 board. and no, I wasn’t scared. I also wouldn’t go around saying things like lucrative and profitable when it comes to doing ANY kind of business with the city of Detroit. You’ve seen the news in say, the last 20 years right? no? Oh..

  • Carl B. Oxley III

    Sudsy, You do realize the building Matthew Naimi claims to have vandalized was a section of wall on an abandoned building that was in the process of being demolished? right? that why 555 “preserved” it for later sale.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Technically it is vandalism, but there was atleast some art behind hit.

      The guy who bought it says he is not going to tear it down, even though i know he will have to demo the whole site.

      • Carl B. Oxley III

        Yes. it was vandalism.
        What you may not realize is that the place where this section was removed from, and why it was removed so easily, is because that particular section was actively being demolished at the time. that section of buildings no longer exists.

        • javierjuanmanuel

          I realize that.

          I do not think you did a grave thing, and drove the final nail in the coffin for the plant. I think if there was no trespassing, no vandalism, laws were enforced, and no scrappers the plant would be in great shape.

          It just contributes to the lawlessness. Your not as bad as scrappers, not thieves, you are not dumping trash there.

          But you knew it was wrong.

          • Carl B. Oxley III

            Yes I agree with you completely. It was wrong. I don’t claim to be an angel. My thought at the time was that even though it was illegal, how much did it really hurt considering that the piece of wall we touched would literally be gone in days.
            But I suppose the lesson here is, that it wasn’t. Because someone decided to not destroy it.

          • Tammy Barbour

            You are upset that someone chose not to destroy it? It being a “self portrait” of a graffitti artist caught red handed with a brush and a paint can reminding us of the past and future of the plant.

        • Tammy Barbour

          So what did you want to happen when you and Naimi were there? Did you think they would see “art” and demolish all around it. Or did you know it would go to dust? Or is this all one of those Jah – Nas beefs to attention. Not one white person here has answered why the hero/criminal in the piece is a black child? Do you not think black people are tired of black children being accused? Don’t be irritated at me saying it. You get to be the hero now. But you painted a black child as committing a crime you actually committed. Interesting self portrait? Not. Either that or you had another motive. If you depict a black person who is already the victim of black on black crime and white on black fear you ought to have a good reason.

  • Carl B. Oxley III

    Again, I love that Banksy having an image of the wall in question on their website briefly a few years ago is “proof” enough for most people, but when an actual person (not faceless or masked) admits to creating it everyone screams for proof and for blood. Who’s the hypocrite?

    • javierjuanmanuel

      I think you should sue the gallery. You can claim it is your art and you want it back.

      He does not have the money to defend himself, well so he says.

      Take him to court if need be, he will lose, he will not hand it over, then you put a lein in the property. Go in with a sheriff and seize it.

      It will take a year to happen but you could take it from him.

      • EDG

        Artists fighting artists, is there anything less important?

    • EDG

      You don’t understand, that is the only way ANY banksy is verified. Visit his website sometime.

      • Carl B. Oxley III

        I understand completely, I’m questioning how people validate things in general. A banksy image on a banksy website is proof? Great.
        If banksy were to let his domain name subscription lapse, and let’s say another person bought it the next day, then went out and reproduced banksy’s style and put those images on the website, those too would be authentic by definition, yes?

        • EDG

          There’s only one banksy website where the catalog is tracked and updated, he recently did a tour in NYC that was well-publicized.

          This isn’t the first time someone has taken advantage of his anonymity. London has dozens and dozens of stores selling supposedly authentic banksy items.

          • Carl B. Oxley III

            How exactly am I taking advantage? To what gain?

          • EDG

            To the detriment of 555. Timing is everything.

          • Tammy Barbour

            All EDG you seem to care about is the money and the timing. Not the piece itself. Not the art itself. At least Carl seems to have another mission. Though I am not sure, and would like more clarity on what it is.

          • Dust Buster

            i seen this one dude selling knock off banksy t shirts, beer coozies and giant foam hands with the index finger up in the “number 1 ” position. they said GO BANKSY in grafitti letters.He also had banksy backpacks with special pouches that hold spray cans. i say we settle this with a paint off. have these guys and anyone else show up at the gallery and without peeking at this painting they need to paint it again from memory. we can have sangria and finger foods

        • chewbaka

          I think a better question is why would there be a random painting on his site that was not by him?

    • Gary

      It was painted by Thomas Kinkade

      • Carl B. Oxley III

        You mean the ghost of Thomas Kinkade!! Spooooooky!

      • Tammy Barbour

        Ha ha!

    • Tammy Barbour

      It’s easy enough to give proof. What brand of paint was used? That is so easy to answer and verify. If you are coming forward to claim it so that it remains in the public realm, I appreciate that. If you are coming forward for the honor of the question itself, I appreciate that too. Normally, artists who want to be anonymous continue to stay that way, no matter what. But I have a question: Why in anonymity of what is a crime, did you paint a black child doing this which you, a white man, claim in fact, you actually did? Please explain.

  • dp

    Another gripping piece by Naeve Sniveling, mouthpiece of the streets with his hand on the pulse of the city. 555 should donate it to the DIA, write it off, learn how to run a gallery without stealing and reselling art.

    • Tammy Barbour

      I agree that 555 should donate it to the DIA. Or DIA should buy it. It doesn’t belong in just anybody’s home, perhaps someone is worthy to own it, but not just the highest bidder. It was meant for the public, and that is where it should remain.

  • Sudsy

    I’ve seen the 555 piece that’s in question on banksy’s website before his NYC residency last year. I’ve screen shots (I believe) somewhere.
    Matt Naimi’s character and business needs to be put into the spotlight for reevaluation by the city of Detroit– both it’s residents and city officials. Detroit, you allow a self proclaimed vandal represent you through a guise of trash removal and community?

    • Toka313

      You don’t have screenshots and even if you did as the folks said, a picture doesn’t show that they did the work. Calling your bluff. Matt runs a pretty good business and I’m happy to #recyclehere.

  • Billy Blake

    Authenticity will be hard to prove. Will Matt Naimi and Carl Oxley be willing to take a lie detector test.To prove they painted it.

    • Carl B. Oxley III

      I could probably pass a lie detector test if I was telling you I was the first black president of the KKK.

      • Carl B. Oxley III

        Which I happen to be.

      • Billy Blake

        I believe that you are a provocateur

  • Sudsy

    So what you’re saying here Matt is that you’re a vandal?!
    You have a very lucrative and profitable contract with the city of Detroit while going around and defacing the city you profit from?
    You will see your fate as your dig your hole of self destruction, hate and absurd claims.
    Good job being a self righteous, hypocrite.
    #boycottrecyclehere!

    • Matthew Naimi

      Recycle Here is a not for profit… All proceeds from the sale of legally obtained material are donated to Green Living Science for free environmental education in the Detroit Public Schools. Recycle Here would never attempt to profit from the theft of any item. #savetheart

  • Matthew Naimi

    I am NOT an artist. I am just a Garbage Man… I was never looking for credit, fame or profit from this. This was painted on a brick wall in an abandoned building. It was literally torn out of the ground, given an identity and deceptively placed in a ‘public trust.’ Using the ‘We need the proceeds to fund operations’ argument now is a joke, as if that argument was used when this piece was stolen, there would not have been any support for their actions…. #savetheart

    • Toka313

      Well, Matt. Since you did it and not Banksy, I think Steve is going to want to post your home address now and Larry D’Mongo is going to talk about hiring thugs to beat you up. Sorry dude.

      • muckraker_steve

        Craig, your inability to understand nuance is perplexing. Or perhaps it’s just intellectual dishonesty?

        • Toka313

          Ah yes, compound the doxxing of artists with the use of my name in the comment section. Well played, Steve.

          • javierjuanmanuel

            Taggers are not artists. This is still wrong, even if it was an abandoned plant, it is still tresspassing.

            One of detroits biggest problems is no one follows any law that is inconvenient to them. If they do not like it, do not follow, no matter, no one will do anything.

            No one should even be on the packard plant grounds. No one.

          • Toka313

            Trespassing! YES! Who else is a trespasser round this blog? Our intrepid reporter?

          • javierjuanmanuel

            Its not the end of the world, but it is wrong. It does not go over in the burbs. You can’t go have a picnic or set up a concert, or camp out, or shoot of fireworks, or do what ever you want where ever you want. It has to be your land, or public land. Again, its not a felony, no jail time, but it is a property rights issue.

            I find it funny people think they can own something, that someone else owned (the wall), no one was supposed to be there (trespassing), then there was theft of a wall, and maybe theft of art, and even the artist if it is banksy makes fun of people selling and buying his actual art. He calles them shitheads if i recall.

            This seems like a story from the onion.

            I encourage peopole to both steal and vandalize the 555. The owner is fine with both, and i expect him to just stand there as you steal art, chip away at his walls, knock over sighs, do what ever you want. He LOVES that sort of stuff.

          • muckraker_steve

            Love you, man, but please don’t encourage people to resort to violence or robbery. We have to remove those kinds of comments. Thanks.

          • javierjuanmanuel

            ok. I do not believe its right. But i know the owner of the 555 does not think its wrong. So surely he would be fine with others doing it to him.

            I just can’t believe he had the nerve to start this. What i suggested is the logical conclusion.

          • Tammy Barbour

            Love it. Saw off a piece of 555 building and put it on Ebay. LMBAO.

          • Dust Buster

            since you are a tagger you would be cool if someone started painting your car or your windows?

          • Toka313

            I’m a tagger? No, YOU’RE a tagger!

          • Tammy Barbour

            Yes, but they host weddings there. Where’s DPD Police Chief Craig then? Don’t tell Orr, he will charge a fee and pocket 10%.

        • EDG

          That’s the difference between MCM and Detnews or Freep, MCM doesn’t have to verify.

          • Dust Buster

            the freep verifies everything? you do know they have rochelle riley and others that dont seem to verify anything but thats ok when it op-ed

          • Tammy Barbour

            ha ha dust buster. Love it. Rochelle Riley…. lol.

    • EDG

      Then this would be the first example of Banksy’s website showing art that’s not his. One and a million….not to mention the timing of this “revelation”.

    • Tammy Barbour

      Why did you do this anonymously, and depict a black child, doing this, which you didn’t want to take credit for? I am not angry, but being a bit of a devils advocate when I ask you this. If you painted a black child stealing a car, would be worse, but I’d like to understand your motivation for the piece. Not just because of the controversy of the 555, but because it begs and important question regarding what was once where the Packard stands, and the uncertainty of what will be there in the future. It is simple but appropriate in all ways to the original location (not in someone’s house to brag they have a Banksy). 1) Please explain your goal with this piece and how it came to you. 2) The Packard will be demolished someday, what would you like to see happen to it?

  • Willy

    Now, what would really be awesome (well, not so awesome for 555) is multiple duplicates of the piece showing up in random places around the city…just sayin’.

    • Tammy Barbour

      I agree. Whoever painted it should be able to make more. Well any artists can forge a piece, but they cannot easily under dark forge the feeling coming through the original without some practice or an incredible gift.