Artist Paints Burning Banks, Attracting Police Attention

chase Artist Paints Burning Banks, Attracting Police Attention

Alex Schaefer's painting of a Chase Bank branch on fire. The work measures 22 by 28 inches. (Photo courtesy the artist)

A Los Angeles artist who has been making paintings that depict local branches of multinational banks on fire has caught the attention of L.A. police, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times.

The artist, Alex Schaefer, was working on a painting of Chase branch in L.A. last month when police approached him and began asking questions. “They asked if I was a terrorist and was I going to follow through and do what I was painting,” Mr. Schaefer asked.

Mr. Schaefer told The Times that he told the police that he did not plan to take any action agains the bank, but he gave them his contact information. “The flames symbolize bringing the system down,” he said. “Some might say that the banks are the terrorists.”

Last week, Mr. Schaefer says, police officers visited him at his home and asked him additional questions about his works, though they did not detain him.

Given the omnipresence of Chase Bank branches in many parts of the country, it is perhaps unsurprising that this is the second time in recent memory that they have have figured in a contemporary artwork. Last year, New York artist Liz Magic Laser presented a film called chase at the Derek Eller Gallery that was shot in the ATM vestibules of New York banks, including many Chases.

As art blogger Tyler Green has pointed out, Mr. Schaefer’s series has precedents in works by the L.A. painter Ed Ruscha, like Los Angeles County Museum on Fire (1965-68) and Norm’s, La Cienega, on Fire (1964). (In a 2004 interview with artist Doug Aitken last year, Mr. Ruscha coyly said that, in the case of Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, he was “thinking like an abstract artist.”)

Mr. Schaefer is currently at work on a painting depicting a Bank of America branch on fire. He said that he does his banking at a small community bank.


  1. politiciansonfire says:

    should dispict the white house.

    1. Johann Carlos Nechayev says:

      It’s pretty much the same thing as rothschilds own the white house…

    2. So, the people who produced the movie “Independence Day” must be terrorists and thus be executed. LOL…

  2. Carl Lehman, P.I. says:

    As a fourth generation native Angeleno (for you NYC snobs that’s a native of Los Angeles), I’d ask: Didn’t Ed Ruscha already do a canvas of a Standard Oil gas station burning about 50 years ago?

  3. This house is looking nice.I like this one.This post is nice.I appreciate to this content.This is a great article.This is an amazing.Thanks to share this blog.Keep it up.

  4. Luff says:

    Oh so this is was the police like to do other than when people really need them.

  5. jadez says:

    and this rag doesnt mention that its protected free speech to paint and the police have no right to question why an artist paints what he does.

    police state america…..and this rag sees no problem with it

    1. Getreal says:

       The police have the right to question if it deals with lifes. I’m pretty sure there is old women who work at the banks who are worried. If someone drew your house on fire wouldn’t you want to know why? He didn’t get arrested or charged but for the safety and what they are required to do, they ask questions.

      1. Realism is a valid form of art, and so is surrealism.  Accurate and down-to-life depiction, however, does not mean it is not a fiction.

      2. Olson Jeremy21 says:

        At the sane time,how bout all of the “old women ” that don’t even have a house to live in.The police don’t have to ask why!They know why,and that’s why the artist is being questioned in the first place!!!

      3. DaveKiser says:

        Lives, not lifes.

      4. Peetie says:

        Wonderful contribution to the exchange of comments, Dave.  Are you a grammar teacher? With the likes of you perhaps the USA can drag itself up from its abysmal ranking when it comes to primary and high-school education. But of course the very rich will make sure their kids go to good private schools, and they don’t care a damn about the rest.

  6. The terrorists are the bankers. The Rothchild banking empire enslaves everyone because they print money out of thin air and then the U.S. is indebted to the money when the Feds and Rothchilds have not created any labor/resource to represent the money.

    This is free speech, clear and simple.

  7. Getreal says:

    You all are morons. You make it seem America is so bad, yet none of you have been to any other countries and lived there… Why sit here and bitch and moan? What does that do besides make everyone depressed. Be a person do your part, because a lot more people have issues that are on a larger scale then banks in America… Think about it this artist can sit there and draw a bank on fire … and now cops were called because its there job and by there job are required to ask questions about the safety of others. Thing about half the world is going to sleep hungry and we have ac and food and a system to feed the less fortunate. Think about others and there positions before you sit here and just pick apart your good life you stupid ignorant people. 

    1. Mark says:

      I have lived in many countries (including the U.S.A.) and YOU are extremely naive… and a bad speller!

      1. Peetie says:

        Well Mark.. You say you have lived in many countries but then you say nothing about your experiences there. What is the point of saying you have lived in many countries (you don’t even say which ones) if you have nothing else to add except to tell somebody else that he is naive and a bad speller. Face it Mark, there are so many countries where the lot of the average citizen is much better than in the good old USA. Perhaps the countries where you lived include Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Libya, or Burkina Faso? Ever been to Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, New Zealand, Austria, Luxembourg, France, Liechtenstein,……(the list goes on)?

    2. Ottoman_Greek says:

      aww, an old skool “American.”  how cute.  

    3. Olson Jeremy21 says:

      I bet you voted for Reagan too!!!!!

    4. Apwsqhua says:

      totally disagree, police have no business with this man to begin with, if I paint this in Paris or Osaka, Japan, nobody would bother me, it’s only in police state America, by the way I live in Japan.

  8. Grayson T Scott says:

    So, uh, where can I get a print?

  9. God1 says:

    I love this painting. Chase fired me and many others unjustly. They screwed America and are in bed with the government. Burn em to the ground.

  10. God1 says:

    It’s artistic license. They should be grateful the dude carries a paint brush and not a gas can.

  11. gretchenhofner says:

    This sounds typical!


  12. It is a bad moment for the freedom of speech and expression.  Police needs to keep their butt out of art however offensive that might be.

  13. Caroline says:

    yes someone tell me how i can get a hold of one of these paintings for my new apartment. hopefully i can get a good price! 

  14. Peetie says:

    The Chase Burning painting that was on eBay ended up selling for $25,200. It even made the news up here in Canada, as Shaefer was interviews by Jian Ghomeshi on the CBC show called Q. Only thing is, the painting that sold on eBay today (item 190570913537) is not the same as the one shown above. 

  15. Peetie says:

    Oops. Before some of the smarties (like Dave below) that comment on bad spelling chastise me, I should say that I meant to put “interviewed”, not “interviews”. I am not a bad speller, but I am a lousy typist and sometimes am not careful enough checking my work.