Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Goodbye and good riddance to the Whaling Wall

Milwaukee lost an iconic landmark this week, and I couldn't really care less.

The "Whaling Wall", a mural by an artist known as Wyland, adorned the Milwaukee County Courthouse Annex since 1997. It was well-known due to its position above the heavily-traveled lanes of I-43 southbound. There's been some hemming and hawing about losing the mural, which was demolished this week along with the last remnants of the aging, decaying Annex, a 1960s parking garage with a level of offices on top.

Frankly, I say screw the wall.

There are no whales in Milwaukee. In the wild, there are no whales within a thousand miles of Milwaukee. There is no aquarium here (well, that's due to change this year with the opening of the new Discovery World building, which will feature a modest aquarium.) The whale mural, basically, has jack all to do with this town.

It is simply an advertisement for Wyland's art business, and a rather kitchy one at that.

The mural is hardly unique; Wyland has plastered them on buildings all over the country. And Wyland is hardly some starving artist struggling to find an audience; his web site is a slick commercial venture that looks primed for commerce on a fairly massive scale. For once, I agree with County Executive Scott Walker -- make the guy pony up to plaster his ad on the side of a public building. And for love of all that is holy, keep it off the pristinely Modernist building of the Milwaukee Public Museum, which Wyland has apparently been slavering over for ten years.

So, let the commuters lament the loss of the whale wall. I'll celebrate the now unobstructed County Courthouse, an impressively massive Classical building that looms over the freeway like a mountain. There are causes far more worth fighting for in Milwaukee than preservation of a lowbrow mural.


Michael R. Allen said...

The annex looks terrible, and its placement atrocious! Why did the county let the mural get painted in the first place? It's lame realism and is positivley garish on that ugly building.

Good riddance to them both!

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