Thursday, April 03, 2008

Retro post #3: Goodbye and good riddance to the Whaling Wall

Before I started this blog, I made a few posts about Milwaukee on my St. Louis blog. I'm reposting them here where they're more relevant. This one went up on May 10, 2006.

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.


Robert Powers said...

I wish I could stir up this sort of response more often. Keep on writing, Mr. Anonymous!

("how much you could have brought for that building"? Does that mean something?)

essemcee said...

Yeah, good riddance indeed. What the hell was a whale doing in MKE anyway? I remember the first couple times seeing it when I was young and I liked it, when I began school in MKE in '01 I though it was cool, but the building it was on was ridiculous and hiding the building behind it, and I was kinda 'pressed when I heard that it was getting tore down. And now that I think about it, he doesn't need his Waylands Whaling Wall in Milwaukee, what publicity BS. MKE is breathing new life, and hopefully something more artistic, than a huge monochromatic and uninspiring mural, will come out of this vibrant city that I will soon call home, again. The architecture at the museum, the ballpark, 6th St. Viaduct and the entire downtown area is completely different and less dark and dingy than what it used to be, much better than a lot of other cities can say. But we do need to clean up the water, let's see if Wyland'll help us with that, or if he's really in it for his own self interest??!!