Who decides what looks good?

By John Landrigan

A view from Parnell: Auckland City Council is creating blank canvases for taggers by painting over interesting works of art. John Landrigan reports.
A 2-year-old handed me an artwork of disjointed brushstrokes and splotches - until I turned it upside down, squinted and imagined a frame around it. Then it somehow worked.
Art truly is in the eye of the beholder. Some love what others abhor.
James Ure, who works in Ronayne St in Parnell, usually is not one to complain. But after seeing a large public artwork removed from its spot near his office, he called Auckland City Council.
Even though the colourful "bomb" had been created by an unknown, illegal artist, Mr Ure could see its merits.
"It was very professionally done. It was not explicit. There was a lot of colour. Now it's just a blank canvas ready to be tagged," says Mr Ure.
He says council staff told him they were looking for a legitimate artist to replace the work. He can't understand why the wall was whitewashed before another piece was commissioned. "Now they have to keep coming back and removing the graffiti," he says.
Former Auckland city councillor and mayoral hopeful Victoria Carter is Mr Ure's boss and agrees with him wholeheartedly. She's an art lover and appreciated the spraypainted work on the walls of a rail overbridge metres from her office for five years.
"If there was a Don Binney imitation of a native bird they wouldn't have painted over it.
"Who decides what is art and what isn't?" asks Mrs Carter.
"Why, when it's been there for so long, would you suddenly decide to paint it out with cream paint? It's an invitation for taggers now."
Mrs Carter says there are a lot of famous bombers - from New York to Berlin - and some great graffiti artists in New Zealand.
"The money council will spend to keep this clean will be phenomenal.

I find its removal obscene," she says.
Auckland City Council's own graffiti policy advises people to paint a mural on communal areas to deter graffiti.
Mrs Carter says the council ignored its own advice and now the clean, cream walls are being defaced repeatedly with rudimentary and often obscene tags and signatures.
A second, unsanctioned, bomb artwork was painted two weeks after the original and was also removed.
Mrs Carter also liked that one and thought the council had come to its senses by replacing the original work.
"It's creating warfare between taggers and council."
Auckland city councillor Paul Goldsmith believes only one bomb-art on one railway bridge support wall was removed.
"The graffiti was not a tag name and council understands it had been there for some years and had some local recognition as an artwork."
He says on July 21, this graffiti was significantly defaced and further graffiti was painted over other sections of the bridge.
Mrs Carter says the councillor is confused between the original and the second unsanctioned bomb-art. Although Mr Ure and Mrs Carter say contractors have been back several times to remove new graffiti, Mr Goldsmith says there's been no graffiti vandalism incidents at the site since.
The Ronayne St railway overbridge support walls are being considered by Ontrack/ Kiwirail and Auckland City Council as sites that may benefit from professional murals completed with permission.

- The Aucklander

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