He basically goes on reconnaissance missions to uproot each piece from its original context (building walls, signposts, fences, etc). He fashions himself a Robin Hood of the built environment, claiming that the pieces are, by design, ephemeral: If he doesn't take and protect them, the police will, and they'll disappear from public view altogether. Not a single piece he owns is for sale. Once it's in his possession, it's his to keep.
His collection includes work by noted Chicago koo-koo Wesley Willis (RIP) as well as some fly three-dimensional buildings by Wesley's far less well-known brother Ricky. There are tributes to the murdered artist Solve, though somewhat gratefully not a single original Solve work. (He seems to consider Solve his holy grail.) I still see Solve's handiwork on signs now and again and feel nervous for it, imagining this guy heffalumping his way through the public domain and then all the way to the bank.
So I struggle. On the one hand, the work was amazing to see, easily some of my favorite pieces in the show. Your heart beats a little faster to be in their presence. And it's true: I probably would never have had the pleasure of experiencing them without this guy's intervention.
On the other hand, do the pieces mean the same hanging on an exhibit wall as they do in the public context? (Of course they don't, but how damaging is that slippery geography to the overall meaning of the work? Negligible? Monumental?) And to what extent is the guy participating in the very tradition of the artists themselves, vs. claiming production he has no right to call his own?
SOS: Is he a noble preservationist or a rotten thief? And is looking at this material at an art show a fair exercise, or something akin to ambulence chasing? A penny for your thoughts.