A piece by artist Banksy was discovered in the Packard Plant in Detroit. Photographed on Friday, June 11, 2010.
(ROMAIN BLANQUART\Detroit Free Press)
A mural of a yellow bird in a cage excavated from Detroit’s Packard Plant — and believed to be the work of the internationally famed British graffiti artist called Banksy — is now up for bid on eBay.
Described today by eBay agent Auxion Junxion as the “authentic Banksy art wall ‘Canary in a Cage,’ ” the 8-foot-by-4-foot piece has an opening bid of $75,000. The piece was discovered amid the destruction of a courtyard in the derelict Packard Plant in Detroit in June.
According to the eBay page
, which includes a 248 area code, there is one week before the auction closes on the nearly 2,000-pound “one-of-a-kind Banksy original.” After the wall containing the art was removed, it was packed with spray foam before transporting to ensure no cracks were made to the block. As of this afternoon, no one had made a bid on the brick wall bearing the graffiti art. Calls from the Free Press to Auxion Junxion today were not immediately returned.
While the eBay page claims it’s authentic, Banksy’s work is difficult to verify — or place a value on. He works anonymously and secretly.
A photograph of the piece now up for bid, evocative of a canary in a coal mine, was posted to the artist’s Web site, http://banksy.co.uk
, on May 30 — one sign that it was indeed Banksy’s handiwork. That said, an art buyer would likely require more proof, and Banksy and his associates have yet to make public comments about the work he apparently left behind in Detroit.
In January 2008, a brick wall bearing the Banksy name attracted 69 bids and sold for $407,000 through an eBay auction, though its authenticity was confirmed by a representative for Banksy.
Detroit graffiti artist Kobie Solomon, 32, who just recently celebrated the release of his “My First Graffiti Coloring Book” laughed when he heard that the alleged Banksy is on eBay.
“This doesn’t reflect personally on the artist, but it sheds a negative light, unfortunately, on the Detroit artistic community,” Solomon said of whoever is responsible for putting the piece on the online auction site.
Solomon said that for street artists, the environment that art is created in “means everything. This is castration of the message,” he added.
Artist Tom Thewes, 43, who owned the now-closed CPop gallery in Detroit for 10 years and is working toward launching the new CPop Unlimited, an online gallery and artist promotion resource, said as an artist he feels it’s a crime to take the work out of its environment. But as a dealer, he thinks the piece will be in high demand.
“Street art and the underground is exploding right now,” Thewes said of names like Banksy or Shepard Fairey, who designed the iconic image of Barack Obama that was used during his 2008 presidential campaign.
“All the rarities, like a Picasso, for the most part, are in permanent or semi-permanent collections and are not liquid. These contemporary artists are what’s the craze right now,” Thewes said.
“It may not be the best investment, I wouldn’t counsel anyone to pick this up as that, but this is a piece of history that comes with a unique story attached to it,” said Thewes, whose gallery specialized in edgy, underground artists. “The (canary) piece is like having one of his more substantial works that he’s done. It’s a weird thing, but I would want to have it.”
Banksy’s canary graffiti was first found at the beginning of June by Mike Holtzman, 21, and Sabrina Fitzwilliams, 24, who run the Web site http://barebonesdetroit.com
, which documents historic Detroit buildings and landmarks. At the time, they told the Free Press they were happy that it existed in the context and space it was originally created in.
But on June 18, Pete Adamo, 57, of Clarkston, a speculator and developer affiliated with the Packard Plant’s owner, Romel Casab, confirmed to the Free Press that the mural was excavated by agents working for a partner of Casab’s.
The crew who carried out the removal left the message “The canary has flown its coup” in red letters next to the hole.
Adamo told the Free Press it was removed to protect the work from vandals and keep curiosity seekers exploring the abandoned site safe. It’s not clear if Adamo — or someone else — is responsible for using Auxion Junxion to sell the piece on eBay. Adamo returned a Free Press text message today asking for comment, but said he needed to check with his partners before speaking.
In May, artists from 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios controversially removed a different Banksy mural from the Packard and displayed it in their Detroit space. Adamo and his partners have sued the gallery for its return, though gallery reps say they were given permission to take it.