Banksy mural from Packard Plant hits auction block in Beverly Hills

Banksy mural at 555 Gallery. By Steve Neavling.
Banksy mural at 555 Gallery and Studios. By Steve Neavling.

Artists at 555 Gallery and Studios set off a firestorm when they removed a large mural by world-renowned street artist Banksy from the abandoned Packard Plant in Detroit in May 2010.

Now the 7-foot-by-8-foot piece is going up for auction in Beverly Hills and is expected to fetch as much as $400,000, according to Julien’s Auctions.

When the artists excavated the 1,500-pound cinder-block wall, they told the public they wanted to preserve it and feature it at their Detroit gallery for all to see.

Since then, the mural, which depicts a boy with a can of red paint and the words, “I remember when all this was trees,” has sat against a wall at the corner of the gallery without much fanfare.

The small gallery wants to use the money from the sale to finance new education programs, provide more studio space and ultimately invest more in budding local and visiting artists.

But critics say the mural should have lived and died where it was stenciled. Last year, two local artists claimed they painted the mural, hoping to sabotage the sale.

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

The value of street art has been soaring in recent years. Last year, a Banksy mural taken from the side of a pub in England was sold for $575,000. In December 2013, a similar stencil sold for $209,000.

555 volunteers told us last year that they didn’t plan to auction off the piece and would rather find a direct buyer.

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.

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  • gwbnyc

    The small gallery wants to use the money from the sale to finance new education programs, provide more studio space and ultimately invest more in budding local and visiting artists. And raise free-range unicorns.

  • David Reich

    Some perspective is needed here. A British criminal comes over here, does a mural without permission on the Packard plant, leaves. Then someone tells the artists at 555 there’s this artwork that’s about to be destroyed, and they decide to rescue it. Instead of gratitude for saving this supposedly valuable cultural artifact, they get only name-calling and lectures on the strict code of ethics graffiti vandals supposedly live by. Can you blame the 555 volunteers for wanting some money after the horrendously ungrateful treatment they’ve gotten?

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Volunteers do not get 500k checks. He is the owner, he does not need to sell it.

      He could donate it to almost any museum. Problem solved.

      • David Reich

        How much money do you think running an art gallery like 555 costs? Even Whitdel Arts, with its free rent arrangement, it has expenses a 500k check would really help out with. Of course, if the 555 director all of a sudden shows up driving a Saleen S7 then Steve Neavling will be on his case like that obnoxious Fox 2 News reporter.

    • gwbnyc

      “some” money? like SIX FIGURES FOR MOVING SOME CONCRETE BLOCKS?

      • David Reich

        And enduring emotional distress and even death threats, just “for moving some concrete blocks.”

        • gwbnyc

          OH!! I SWOON…

  • bob zabor

    This was the plan all the time, and its wrong. They TOOK the art that was gift to the city and are now selling it for their own gain. Now neither me nor my family or friends will ever get to see it. The only thing they can do now is sell it and give the money back to the city. Anything else, even building an art center (that they can run and earn a living from) is morally bankrupt.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      It goes to support the 555 guys lifestyle. Thats it. If it didnt, he would not sell it.

      His art is not popular, he does not make money, and i am convinced he needs to be pursued by the irs, the old packard owner did not REALLY sell the Banksy for 2500.

      This 555 guy stole it first of all, and he needs to be in jail. There was a secret deal with the packard owner, he owes tons of money, he cannot have a check for 200-500k come in, it will be seized by the courts. Clearly they worked out a secret deal

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  • javierjuanmanuel

    Cool, so I can go take it from 555, pay them a couple grand then I can sell it for a half million and that dirt ball owner will be fine with that ?

    What POS.

    That is such a shameless money grab, I hope that turd has to leave town, that is more money than he would have netted in 25 years.

  • Ryan Knox

    Who the f@#&!! is Banksy?

    • Katherine Marie Motyka

      Really? Do you live under a rock?

    • Lisa Havelock

      Banksy is an international graffiti vandal who has no respect for victims of war.