muckraker report

New Packard Plant owner wants gallery to return Banksy mural

Banksy mural at 555 Gallery & Studios. (Steve Neavling/MCM

Banksy mural at 555 Gallery & Studios. (Steve Neavling/MCM

The Peru-based developer who bought the abandoned Packard Plant in Detroit wants a local art gallery to return a now-famous Banksy mural that was excavated from the ruins amid controversy in May 2010.

Fernando Palazuelo, who plans to convert the east-side ruins into commercial and residential space,  planned to meet Wednesday with representatives of 555 Gallery and Studios in hopes of convincing them to donate the 7-foot-by-8-foot piece back to the Packard, where the world-renowned street artist painted it.

“We are concerned about the piece leaving Detroit, especially when it was supposed to be kept here,”  project manager Kari Smith said Wednesday. “It’s a very important piece to the city, and we’d like to maintain it and display it at the Packard.”

When gallery volunteers removed the valuable 1,500-pound cinder-block wall from the crumbling plant four years ago, they said the idea was to preserve the mural so that people in metro Detroit could view it. Then in March, we broke news that the nonprofit gallery was looking for someone to buy the mural, which experts say could fetch a few hundred thousand dollars.

Packard Plant (Steve Neavling/MCM)

Packard Plant (Steve Neavling/MCM)

The nonprofit, which operates solely with volunteers inside a largely unused former police precinct on West Vernor, wants to use money from a sale to support its more than 30 resident artists, musicians, writers, nonprofit arts administrators and creative entrepreneurs.

After a legal battle with the then-owner of the Packard Plant, the gallery reached a $2,500 agreement to legally take ownership of the excavated mural.

The value of street art has been soaring in recent years. Earlier this year, a Banksy mural taken from the side of a pub in England was sold for $575,000. In December, a similar stencil sold for $209,000.

Palazuelo, who bought the sprawling ruins in December for $405,000, made good on his delinquent tax bill earlier this month after clearing up a dispute over the amount due.

Now Palazuelo is pulling city permits to begin removing dangerous debris from the Packard’s former administration building, which was heavily damaged by scrappers who brazenly removed an entire floor last year.

Once the work is complete, Palazuelo plans to restore the iconic brick bridge over East Grand Boulevard. The bridge, which was used to transport the shells of automobiles to the engine area, has been heavily vandalized.

RELATED: Tourist says armed robbery attempt at Packard Plant brushed off by police

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.

  • CommonSenseInTheD

    The Bansky should only be dedicated back to the Packard Plant location “after” the Developer successfully develops the Packard & “there is an appropriate, safe & secure location for it to be protected, preserved and enjoyed by Detroiters & visitors for generations to come. If the Packard Plant is not successfully renovated and redeveloped then I believe that the 555 Gallery continues to keep it safe, protected and enjoyed by the public for generations to come. If 555 Gallery is not able to sustain into the future years, then I believe the Bansky needs to be at the DIA.

  • Larry Gray

    This Banksy graffiti was painted illegally, you forgot to mention how this is driving property values down and causing blighted neighborhoods peril.

  • http://www.gpforlife.com/ GP For Life

    Yeah, I am not sure that’s how property law works.

    • Clifford Forester

      For once GP, I believe you are right unfortunately.

      • http://www.gpforlife.com/ GP For Life

        What do you mean, for once! I am always right, just ask me.