A flame-breathing dragon says 'Save the art' in Detroit

Sep 13, 2013

Flaming protest art, through the mouth of the dragon
Flaming protest art, through the mouth of the dragon
Credit Erica Stromberg / via Facebook

What’s a good way to draw attention to the Detroit Institute of Arts’ plight?

One way might be to drive a mobile, 20 feet-tall, 60-feet-long, fire-breathing dragon to the museum.

The dragon isn’t a real dragon, of course. It’s a co-production of Detroit artist Ryan Doyle, and Hong Kong-based artist Teddy Lo.

They made the monster, named Gon KiRin, out of sheet metal, tires and other discarded materials found around Detroit.

Doyle and some assistants used Gon KiRin’s mouth-flames to set fire to wire-and-cloth letters spelling out “Save the Art.”

City-owned portions of the DIA are at risk of being sold off to pay Detroit’s debts, as the city proceeds through bankruptcy.

Doyle says it just made sense to use art—in this case, Gon KiRin—to make a point about art.

“If all you have is a hammer, then everything becomes a nail, right?” Doyle said. “So, if you have a giant flame-thrower…any time you’re going to set something on fire, you might as well use the dragon.”

But Gon KiRin isn’t just trying to make a cultural statement. She also has another goal—to make it out to Art Prize in Grand Rapids next week.

Joshua McAninch is part of the “dragon team” who helps her run. He says the big motivation for going to Art Prize is…kids. They love to interact with her.

“They want to know what it’s made out of,” McAninch says. And it’s not made of things that come from a box…it’s just from things that were around.

“And we tell them…that tail you’re pulling on? It’s made out of drive shafts from cars.”

Gon KiRin has already been invited to Art Prize. Now, Doyle and his team just have to get her there. They’ve launched a kickstarter campaign to cover the costs.