Steve Comer, a Liberal Democrat councillor from the Eastville ward in Bristol, is calling on local people to put together an official register of public artworks, after a 10-year-old Banksy mural ‘Gorilla in a Pink Mask’’ was whitewashed over by mistake. The painting on the wall of a former social club had been a familiar landmark for over 10 years and was valued at over £100,000. The painting depicted a gorilla holding up a pink eye mask to its face. Comer has suggested that a registered list of Bristol street artworks would make it difficult for a similar mistake to reoccur. The list would assure that planning permission would be required from owners to alter or change the works of art. Bristol’s Neighbourhood Partnerships would compile a register of public art works around the city.
Comer’s Eastville ward covers the Fishponds Road site where Banksy’s “Gorilla in a Pink Mask” was created, “Public art has become an important part of our lives in Bristol and, where possible, should be protected Comer stated in an interview to the press. “It’s not the first time a mural like this one has been lost in this way. Neighbourhood Partnerships, or Forums, would give people in their areas the chance to identify what’s worth protecting locally. “A register could then be compiled and published. It would have no statutory force, but we could insist council contractors consult the register and we could use it to advise others”. Councillor Guy Poultney, Lib Dem executive member for neighbourhoods at the council, said: “In principle this sounds like an excellent idea. I hope to bring forward proposals later in the year.”
A new organization on Facebook has appeared in the last few months to monotor and protect valuable street art Internationally. Here is the link: SOSA Save Our Street
SOSA is the start of a lobbying group which plans to list and put pressure on Local Councils to be responsible for the protection of these works. It is time to start treating them as they would any piece of public art under their control. Camden Council removed one of Banksy’s best known works (French Maid ) stating that it encouraged anti social behavior.These works are in desperate need of preservation some are flaking and must be put under protective care. A worldwide preservation society needs to be actioned immediately, if we are to protect these important 21st century frescoes.
Recently Google launched “Google Street Art View”. The Street Map site can be utilized to showcase works of graffiti art from around the globe. This project has been realized through a collaboration between the Brazilian ad agency Loducca and Red Bull. It has created an innovative source for discovering new works, the project is user driven. Artwork is searchable by location or author, and while locations are restricted to those places where Google’s cameras have recorded the area, Street Art View’s goal was to be “the biggest art collection in the world”. After just a few days live, the platform had over 200 walls tagged in various countries, including big names such as Keith Haring, Os Gêmeos and Banksy. The drawback is that the photos were already a few years old and many of the works were gone. Another downside was that It pinpointed the works to thieves and over zealous councils who have than removed the works.
This type of technology is proof that we have the know-how and viewing platform but now need to protect our heritage. These 21st century cultural icons are valid works of contemporary art and need strict guidelines and preservation orders. They are not taken seriously by local councils and private owners who don’t differentiate the works from the thousands of Tags and sub grade quality Graffiti Art that appears and disappears every day in most cities across the world.
Many of the earlier works can be viewed on Google Street Art View