Packard Banksy headed for L.A. auction block

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Flier for the upcoming "Street Art" auction in Los Angeles.
  • Flier for the upcoming "Street Art" auction in Los Angeles.

It’s official: The Packard Banksy is going up on the block to the highest bidder at a tony Los Angeles auction house. The Packard Banksy appears in the flier for the upcoming “Street Art” auction Sept. 30 at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The piece is actually a 1,500-pound section of cinderblock and concrete wall that was discovered inside the Packard Plant in 2010, one of many artworks credited to Banksy that appeared around metro Detroit. It depicted a child with a paintbrush next to the words: "I remember when all this was trees."

What made this piece so special was that a crew of artists from Detroit’s 555 Gallery spent the better part of two days removing and transporting the artwork to their gallery. And then most of Detroit’s street art community erupted in anger and condemnation.

Critics were mollified, or at least quieted, when 555 announced that the artwork would not be sold, and would be on view for all comers. Then, almost four years later, the gallery, citing financial straits, announced it was looking to sell the Banksy.

In last year’s cover story “Robbing the Banksy,” local artist Matt Naimi told us, “They said, ‘We’re preserving it,’ which is when a lot of the dogs were called off,” prompting artist Carl Oxley’s rejoinder: “I think it’s important to note that societies of preservation don’t usually remove an item, preserve it for less than five years, and then sell it.”

Some had hoped the gallery would find a private buyer who would purchase it and keep it in the area, perhaps donating it to the Detroit Institute of Arts. But placing the piece in such a high-profile show almost assures that the Packard Banksy will find its new life far away from the Motor City.

It would seem to confirm the worst-case scenario of Naimi, who told us: “It’s going to be some backsplash in Miami, and you’ll look out the window and it’s going to be a forest of trees and it won’t mean shit because it’s not about the art, it’s about the name on the back — or the purported name on the back. ‘I remember when all this was trees,’ and they’re going to put it in the fucking forest because of the name on the back.”

The auction house estimates that the piece will sell for about $400,000. 


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