In 2010 London was amid a graffiti ‘crackdown’. Artists with prior convictions for graffiti were given curfews and some had their houses raided by police. The railway lines were painted various shades of brown and graffiti and street art was washed away almost as soon as it appeared. Why? The Olympics we’re due in 2012. Whenever big money is heading to a city, graffiti art is often targeted.
Last week we saw something similar, as work by French street art legend ‘Blek le Rat’ (you know, the guy Banksy copied) was removed in Chicago ahead of a big visit from online retail giants Amazon. The book selling website turned everything selling website are considering a second headquarters in the windy city and so the city dramatically increased their graffiti clean-up.
The piece in question was painted on the side of Cards Against Humanity’s HQ on Elston Avenue in the Logan Square area, across the Chicago River from Lincoln yards. CAH is a hilarious game that, by the way, I would recommend highly. It’s no surprise to me that the company that makes this game would be open minded enough to proudly display a piece of street art on their walls.
Cards Against Humanity founder Max Temkin invited Blek le Rat to create the piece on the company’s building to promote a gallery show in the area. In a statement he wrote “Obviously street art is meant to be ephemeral but it was a real point of pride for us, and we loved sharing this special thing to the neighborhood”.
Brian Hopkins from Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation department said “We felt pretty bad, and apologized as soon as we found out what happened”. He noted that workers who normally work this area “knew it was art and should be left alone. But during a recent ‘blitz,’ when staff from all over the city target one area for clean up, a crew unfamiliar with the mural removed it.”
I can just imagine how the team must have felt when they found out that they had erased some ‘art’ that they thought wasn’t ‘art’. Maybe, in future, they should stick a label on every piece that they think is ‘art’, to avoid such mistakes.
Hopkins noted that graffiti blitzes are a semi regular occurrence, it “just so happened” that this one coincided with Amazon’s visit.