What some may see as “street art” or political commentary, others may view as an illegal act of vandalism. But this You be the Judge post does not examine the many issues surrounding graffiti. Instead, let’s take on a far easier task and don our imaginary judge’s robe to decide who has the right to a small piece of wall.
The city of Detroit has a long history of litigation with Bioresource, Inc. over an abandoned Packard Motor Car plant on Detroit’s east side. Built in the 1900s, this hazardous 40-acre site has sat unused for approximately forty years. The city wants the plant torn down and condemned. Bioresource, Inc. has denied ownership of the property, probably because the demolition and cleanup of the site could cost upwards of 20 million dollars.
In the midst of a debate over the responsibility for this dangerous plot of land, an image mysteriously emerged on a seven-foot cinder block wall. The graffiti depicted a little boy holding a paint brush and paint can, with the simple phrase, “I remember when all this was trees.” The image appears to have been created by famed English graffiti artist, Banksy. Banksy’s street art sells for several hundreds of thousands of dollars and his recent film, Exit through the Gift Shop, received rave reviews.
Photo by Jason Mathews. Used with permission from 555 Nonprofit Studio and Gallery.
Shortly after the graffiti appeared, representatives of the 555 Nonprofit Studio and Gallery in Detroit detached the 1,500-pound wall and moved it into their space. The executive director of the gallery said a foreman told them the wall was going to be torn down. The gallery claims the foreman, whom the gallery took to represent the owner of the plant, granted them permission to remove the wall.
Bioresource, Inc. sued 555 and demanded the return of the mural. The gallery argues that they want to conserve the wall.
In an interesting twist, the city of Detroit sees this lawsuit as a public acknowledgment by Bioresource of responsibility for the plant and claims they will “hold the property owner accountable for this unsightly and dangerous situation.”
According to 555, they and the alleged owners of the Packard Plant will be in court on August 13th.
Who has the rights to the wall? Bioresource, Inc.? 555? The City of Detroit? Banksy? Or someone else? In the comments below, you be the judge.