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