Ci­tys­cape has grey tinge

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

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.

Pho­tos: JA­SON OXENHAM

Art ad­vo­cates: Greyed-out, be­low: The Poyn­ton Tce wall has re­mained largely un­touched since the large mu­ral was painted out in 2011.

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