Gallery goes gangster starting Friday


“Two Gun” Harry Altman and other Purple Gang thugs will grace the Biddle Gallery as part of artist Rick McQuaid’s collection, which opens Friday.

Portraits courtesy of Biddle Gallery


Artist Rick McQuaid’s portrait of Purple Gang member Sam “The Gorilla” Davis. McQuaid will feature his collection of Purple Gang mugshots at the Biddle Gallery beginning Friday.

By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — Hoods. Thugs. Gangsters.

The best of society’s worst will be featured in their finest mug shots when an infamous slice of Detroit history comes to the Biddle Gallery this week.

Dearborn Heights artist Rick McQuaid will feature a series of portraits of mug shots from members of the Purple Gang, who bootlegged liquor in Prohibition-era Detroit. The series, which showcases Purple Gang members like Sam “The Gorilla” Davis, will open during the city’s Third Friday event 6 to 9 p.m. Jan 21.

Biddle Gallery owner Karen Thomas said McQuaid showed a similar series of gangster portraits at the gallery two years ago, and that the set sold out within a week of its exhibition.

“When you sell out of a show, you want to have them back,” Thomas said. “Most of the people who bought his work were collectors of Purple Gang or prohibition memorabilia.”

The set is based on the book “Detroit’s Infamous Purple Gang,” by crime historian Paul Kavieff and will be showcased at the gallery through Feb. 5.

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