Detroit (WXYZ) - The Detroit art gallery 555 has turned the jail cells in the old third police precinct into art studios. It is used to making transformations.
The latest transformation the gallery is hoping to accomplish is causing controversy. It wants to turn a piece of graffiti art into big money.
“Others like it have gotten anywhere from $200,000 to $1.2 million,” said 555 gallery co-founder Carl W. Goines.
The art may be worth so much because it is believed to be a creation of the famous and anonymous street artist known as Banksy. He travels the world leaving graffiti with a message.
The piece now up for sale has been at 555 for two years. The gallery took it from the old Packard plant about 4 years ago. They got permission because they said they wanted to preserve it.
“It will still be preserved. It just will be in someone else’s hands,” said Goines. “The money will be used to improve the programs we offer to the community.”
After the plan to sell was announced, Matthew Naimi, from the Detroit company Recycle Here, came forward with a claim that could impact those plans.
“Carl and I painted that piece,” said Naimi.
He’s talking about Carl Oxley, a Detroit artist also known as “popartmonkey.” He paints mostly bright, happy, cartoon-like pieces. His typical work is not at all like the believed Banksy piece at 555.
Naimi says he is not an "artist" just a garbage man who loves art.
“The only reason we are coming forward now is they are trying to profit from somebody else's work,” said Naimi.
Naimi says he and Oxley don’t want money. They just don’t want their work sold, and especially not sold as a Banksy piece.
At gallery 555, they’re not buying it.
“It was on Banksy’s site in 2010,” said Goines.
When I asked Naimi why it was on Banksy’s site, he had his own explanation.
“He put a pic of my piece up… maybe he likes my work,” said Naimi.
In the meantime, artists that work at 555 say they believe the piece would better serve the art world somewhere else. What they really need are resources to promote and create art.