Monday, July 19, 2010

banksy wuz here

The famous graffiti artist Banksy visited our fair city of Detroit not too long ago, and left something at the ruins of the old Packard plant that people are now fighting over. It's a low day for "high art" and a big victory for us proles when the work of a vandal is valued enough to be coveted the rich and famous among us.

I've written about stencil graffiti before, here and here. It's an important artistic, social, and political development, an original and highly competitive form whose proponents often approach their subjects with a raw edge of anarchic wit. Banksy is the universally acknowledged leader of this pack, and undebatably its most gifted practitioner.

The product of Banksy's Motown endeavor didn't stay in place long. It was chopped out of the cinder block wall upon which it was rendered and carted away by a local band of art activists who call themselves the 555 Nonprofit Studio and Gallery.

But since Angelina Jolie is said to have paid half a million big ones for a few of Banksy's pieces, and the Detroit fresco is now valued at around 100k, potential claimants are popping out of the woodwork. The city of Detroit has been trying for years to figure out who actually owns the 3-1/2 million square foot Packard plant (nobody wants to pay for the demolition and cleanup), so this is getting interesting.

From the Auto Blog site (via AOL) article on this humungous crangleschnazzle over a piece of graffiti vandalism:

The best anyone can figure, the plant is currently owned by a company called Biosource, Inc, and the only person on that company's books is Dominic Cristini. Cristini is currently serving a prison term in California on drug charges, leaving the local government to try to decide how best to go about cleaning up the site.

Of course, now that there's some value to the property and a lawsuit, other potential players have worked their way into the picture. Interestingly, the name on the legal documents is Romel Casab, not Cristini. And Detroit now has another person to question regarding the site and its potential cleanup.

As it currently stands, 555 has placed the graffiti in a protective enclosure and has it safely displayed at its gallery on West Vernor Highway in the shadow of I-75.

The author of the AutoBlog piece, Jeremy Korzeniewski, also comments that "It's a simple message, but it's also a somewhat profound statement when viewed from the ravaged surroundings in which it exists."

The "profound statement" I get out of it is that here in the U.S., a country which has devolved into a seedy ruin of its former self, we're now reduced to wrangling over the leavings of some furrin vandal, a hit-and-run artist who is attempting to tell us what we've become by employing subtle references to our former grandeur. He tagged a wall in a gargantuan, now-derelict facility where Americans used to produce tangible objects of real value, something we no longer know how to do in this age of "creative finance."

We don't produce anything here any more except collateralized debt obligations and meltdowns. It took a damned Hinglishman to actually produce something valuable enough to generate lawsuits disputing ownership, and I find all of this too delicious.

Click on the image for a larger view.

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