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Art in Detroit’s Buildings, and Detroit’s Buildings As Art

Six months ago, an American artist living in Europe stripped an abandoned Detroit house for an elaborate art project. After taking the facade to Europe, he left the shell of the home behind after promises to complete the demolition.

The block that the house stands on is not full of similar, derelict properties that have come to be the first image in people’s minds when they think about Detroit. In fact, the block is made up of well groomed homes, and the empty shell sticks out like a sore thumb.

Detroit Building Authority Brain Farkas said, “The fact that this artist can come in here and leave something like this is completely unacceptable.”

Indeed, neighbors and officials alike are disgusted that the artist would leave such a mess for neighbors to live with, while profiting from so-called “ruin porn” — the exploitation and glamorization of the city’s decay.

Other areas of the city are dealing with the exportation of parts of buildings, too. Earlier this month, pieces of a building were set to be auctioned off by the elite art auctioning company Sothebys but were pulled from sales after a complaint about “rightful ownership” of some of the items.

According to two historic preservationists, the items, fragments of a Tiffany Studios-designed glass mosaic ceiling from the Farwell Building, were most likely stolen from the building years ago.

The Farwell has stood empty since at least 1984, and it has been stripped over the years.

Tiffany Studios, the celebrated glass designer, specialized in stained glass windows, lamps, and other decorative pieces. The company was known for their artful manipulation of the colorful glass, which is transformed from raw materials at a temperature of 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

According the website Historic Detroit, the Farwell’s lobby was once “inlaid with thousands of tiny Tiffany glass pieces.”

With thousands of buildings laying vacant, the looting and scraping of historic buildings has long been a problem in Detroit.

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