DETROIT – You know the iconic whale mural Detroit Tigers fans could see on a building from Comerica Park? Well, it’s been covered up by an advertisement, and the artist says that’s being justified by a legal technicality.
The “whaling wall” has been a Detroit staple for more than two decades. It’s one of the most well-known murals in the city.
The Wyland mural was dedicated in 1997 on Broderick Tower. It’s been covered up multiple times since 2006, but never painted over. Right now, it’s blocked by an ad for Rocket Companies that was created by another artist.
Artist frustrated by advertisement
Robert Wyland filed a brief with the Michigan Supreme Court, saying this is a violation of federal law.
“It’s kind of a legal hocus pocus, is what they’re trying to pull here,” Wyland said.
He said he’s fed up with his mural being blocked by advertisements.
“I was really disappointed that a company like Rocket Mortgage would even consider destroying the integrity of a work of art that is loved by so many,” Wyland said.
The battle of over the mural pits the pro-whale city of Detroit against the Detroit Zoning Board of Appeals and Detroit Media Group, LLC, which leased the right to place signage over the whales.
Wyland’s legal brief claims that covering the whales violates the Visual Artists Rights Act, which protects visual artists by prohibiting the destruction of works of recognized stature. The complication here: The whales are being covered up, not destroyed.
“They are destroying the integrity of the wall, and the whole idea that they can get away with it -- it sets a precedent,” Wyland said.
People are used to seeing the whales when they come down to Comerica Park, and when they realized the mural was blocked this year, a social media campaign, #BringBackTheWhales, was born.
Here’s Mara MacDonald’s full report: