all photos Nolionsinengland except where stated
Shoreditch is a colourful, artistic furiously beating heart within the borough of Hackney. Among many forms of creative and cultural excellence, street art within Shoreditch is significant on the global scale if not even world leading. Visitors come from far and wide specifically to see the street art and graffiti, indeed the Graffoto inbox is often filled with emails from overseas visitors looking for advice and information prior to their visit. The actions of the local council, Hackney are exposing the ridiculously confused and inconsistent practise over the control of graffiti and the development of the area.
Returning to the streets after a few days outside London this week, probably the most notable new piece of street art was this painting by Neonita on the side of The Foundry, a legendary decade old arts and social space on Old Street.
This piece is more notable for the politics of its existence than its artistic accomplishment. This spot spent a long time hidden behind builder’s scaffolding, though that itself provided a suitable canvas for various quasi political artistic statements.
After removal of the scaffolding a series of beautiful pieces were executed at the invitation and permission of the owners of the Foundry Bar.
The Krah/FORS (2008)
Then to everyone’s horror, about three days after another masterpiece was created the council’s contractors came along and without so much as a “may we” obliterated the art using a semi glossy black tar.
mmmmm - Thats better (Dec 2008)
The council’s view seems to be that this commissioned public art is graffiti and therefore vandalism and must be cleaned up. Hackney Council’s stance on graffiti is summarised on their website, regarding private buildings which means almost any wall not owned by the council, this is what their policy says:
“The Council has no authority to immediately remove graffiti from buildings that it does not own or manage.
When graffiti is reported on one of these buildings, we will notify the owner/occupier and can undertake works by default if they fail to act.”
From conversations with the staff at the Foundry, no notice to remove "graffiti" was served on them and there is no record of anyone ever making any kind of complaint. The managers at the Foundry even protested that the work had their permission and was neither racist nor offensive but to no avail. The council and their hired chimps have a penchant for taking matters into their own hands and ignoring their own required process.
Council contractors vs 10FOOT (10FOOT won, container relocated with 10Foot intact)
Frankly the council are making themselves look ridiculous with their feverish efforts to purge the un-licensed creativity from the area. There is a derelict un-occupied eyesore in a prominent position on Great Eastern St, located just a short distance from the Foundry. It looks like a burned out bombsite, the smashed windows let the pigeons in, interior walls and ceilings have collapsed, the outsides are grubby and decrepit from years of neglect.
61 Great Eastern St
The Council do nothing that has any effect on the state of this building but the moment a bit of street art appears, their buffing chimps attack. Before Christmas, after creating a gorgeous substantial art piece 50 yards away (with permission), Israeli artist Know Hope created a small marker pen piece only for it to be promptly buffed by Graffiti Solutions.
Know Hope - photo Slaminksy
The shittiest un-safest building in Shoreditch vs the most beautiful and lowest impact art from an internationally recognised street artist – which aspect would you tackle first?
Back to The Foundry, those who have been there will know of the Foundry as a centre for creativity, outsider art shows and refreshment with like minded souls, it is a notable social lightening-rod for artistic minded creatives as well as a meeting place for cyclists. This is due to go very soon though as last week Hackney Council giving planning approval for the demolition of the building The Foundry shares and its replacement by an art hotel. In a move totally inconsistent with its zero tolerance of graffiti, the Council has ordered the preservation of a very large Banksy on the outside wall to the rear of the building.
Banksy - Eat The Rich
Weird the Council should choose to have this Banksy preserved, as it is crap. Predominantly a roller job, it is very poorly executed and its meaning is a tad obscure to the average passerby. Relocation somewhere else within Hackney would sacrifice any slight shred of meaning or context. Incorporation within the fabric of a hotel whose design is driven by a signature art theme would be bizarre, there's a huge disconnect between a piece of street art and hotel art.
The Council's behavior in sanctifying this banksy piece is totally inconsistent with its actions on the street. Any fresh and vital art, which includes the Sclater St graff, is purged immediately yet they keep this piece of shit?
Also, there have been many far superior Banksy’s within a hundred yards of this piece, from the Happy Chopper across the road above the chippie to the Pulp Fiction and Ozone pieces at the roundabout to the various happy copper pieces across the Old Street railway bridge. It makes no sense to slap a preservation order on The Foundry Banksy.
Happy Chopper - photo Shellshock
Further senseless irony lies in the protective hoarding that has been placed over the Banksy rat, presumably by the building owners who Graffoto believes to be the property developers. This Banksy hasn’t been visible to the public for a couple of years. When Burning Candy did one of their signature illegal skull/teef jobs on the wooden hoarding protecting the graffiti - it got buffed. Twisted.
Rat trap; Burning Candy
The underlying motivation of the council is not improving the living quality of the Shoreditch media-arts-cool village for its “stakeholders”, it’s a cultural cleansing of the most vibrant contemporary art movement in the World today in preparation for the Olympics. OK, so not everyone appreciates graffiti but there are enough residents, workers and visitors in this area that do (check the requests for shutter jobs and wall paintings) so it's about time the mish mash of elected and un-elected busybodies in the council gave some thought to a balanced policy reflecting the balanced and varied views rather than the current "scorched wall" approach.
Graffoto bumped into a number of hard working car mechanics today who were intrigued by us taking this photo of a new CEPT on the side of their garage.
CEPT - Love Will Tear US Apart
They told us that the Council had ordered them to remove the previous Cept at this location as it was offensive and there had been complaints, or they would face £5,000 removal costs if it wasn't. The guys asked them what was offensive and to show them the complaints - no reply! See, even rude mechanicals get it. The threat issued to them of a £5000 cost of removal? That is taking the piss.
An innate part of the colour and character of Shoreditch that ensures the whole flourishes is being mindlessly strangled. Bring back the graffiti and bring back the soul to Shoreditch.
This post has been prepared without the cooperation or even awareness of anyone mentioned like the council, The Foundry, the developers and the buff monkeys. Banksy contributed sod all as well.
Grafflondon on the strangulation of even legal graffiti spots here
Save The Foundry here