Aug 28, 2023 - News

Whale mural visible again downtown after storm damages Rocket ad

The Broderick Tower by drone Friday morning. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

The whales are visible again on the side of downtown's Broderick Tower.

Driving the news: Thursday night's extreme weather managed to undo a temporary mural created by westside artist Phillip Simpson and installed by Rocket Companies in 2021.

Why it matters: The advertisement is unpopular among some — especially Tigers fans — because it has been covering up the humpback whale scene painted by artist Robert Wyland about 25 years ago.

  • "Nature is healing," The Athletic's Max Bultman posted to social media.

What they're saying: "Wowww," Simpson posted on Instagram. "What happens now?"

  • Simpson, whose familiar smiles can be found across the city, tells Axios he reached out to Rocket Companies Friday about the future of his work and hasn't yet heard back.
  • Rocket Companies did not respond to our request for comment.

The other side: The artist who painted the whaling wall told Local 4 last year that he wanted to sue Rocket Companies over the ad placement.

  • "I was really disappointed that a company like Rocket Mortgage would even consider, you know, destroying the integrity of a work of art that is loved by so many," Wyland said.
  • "It was my favorite part of Comerica when it opened," Macomb County resident Ailene Hicks tells Axios. "That ad just looks terrible in comparison to what is underneath … Mother Nature has a way with karma."

Catch up quick: "When we heard this property was going to be used as advertising space again, we saw it as a great opportunity to take control of the space and bring more art to downtown Detroit," the company's chief marketing officer told Metro Times when the banner went up in 2021.

  • "Such a high-profile location — seen all around the world during Tigers' home games — needs to be a place to display the work of Detroit artists."

Of note: Simpson is also one of the artists chosen by the city for its City Walls project.

What's next: It remains unclear whether Simpson's work will be put back up.

💭 Sam's thought bubble: Some see the mural as a win for Simpson and other Black Detroiters who were never as connected to the original mural as Tigers fans who iconified the whales from their seats at Comerica Park.

  • It's a shame that we even have to debate one piece of art over another.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Detroit stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more