Cityscape has grey tinge
THE artistic landscape of Auckland has shifted after the infamous loss of a cherished mural spot in the central city, according to local graffiti artists.
Cut Collective member Sparrow Phillips says a ‘‘mural register’’, implemented by Auckland Council after a popular graffiti wall on Poynton Tce, off Pitt St, was painted over, has been a positive outcome of the saga.
In March 2011 the Auckland City Harbour News reported the wall, which for years was graced by touristattracting murals, had been painted battleship grey by overzealous contractors.
The mistake sparked public outcry and mayor Len Brown tweeted an apology to lead artist Elliot O’Donnell, aka Askew One. Mr O’Donnell had maintained the wall with his crew for more than a decade – with the approval of the building owner.
The council looked set to replace the mural, seeking expressions of interest from artists who might have been keen on creating a new work.
However, it eventually withdrew the call and recompensed Mr O’Donnell to the tune of $12,000 – all of which he donated to charity.
Auckland Council manager for art and culture Kaye Glamuzina says there was ‘‘mutual agreement not to replace the mural after it became clear an agreement between the building owner, local community and Mr O’Donnell was unlikely’’.
Nearly two years later the wall is still grey aside from the occasional tag or poster that pops up from time to time.
Mr Phillips says losing the Poynton Tce wall is a ‘‘real shame’’ for the nearby K Rd community.
He and his Cut Collective colleagues operate a studio on Poynton Tce, a base for their business earning a living from legitimate street art.
The collective wrote an impassioned letter to the council when the graffiti was painted over, which was accompanied by a petition calling for ‘‘no more grey walls’’.
‘‘I think everyone is saddened that the wall doesn’t have art on it,’’ he says.
‘‘But what came out of the whole thing was the wall register which is really cool because if you paint a wall you can ring up the council and put it on the register so it won’t get painted out.’’
Collective member Ross Liew says the lost mural wall is ‘‘almost like a casualty of the political system’’.
Mr Liew concedes the new graffiti register has had a positive effect, as it enables business associations or property owners to feel confident when commissioning a piece.
‘‘A lot of the commissioned murals are now coming from the business associations or private businesses,’’ he says.
‘‘There is heaps of potential between those relationships if you can get corporate funders to come on board, you only need council for permission.’’
The council’s strong antigraffiti stance has had an effect on the neighbourhood and there are fewer uncommissioned murals going up around the city, Mr Phillips says.
‘‘They are spending a lot of money paying contractors to go out and paint over graffiti but there is no place for young dudes to go and have a spot to paint, like they do in Wellington,’’ he says.
Ms Glamuzina says the council is developing a new public art policy that will encompass street art and other forms of communityinitiated public art.
‘‘Several local boards, for example, have raised the possibility of street art initiatives, so their local creative talent can participate and gain experience,’’ she says.
A draft policy will soon go out for consultation.
Art advocates: Greyed-out, below: The Poynton Tce wall has remained largely untouched since the large mural was painted out in 2011.