Monday, 18 July 2011

Art and vandalism... such a thin line sometimes

We are all aware that what may be perceived as art by some may be perceived as vandalism by others - or, what is art to some may look like plain dirt to others... What to say about a Banksy's grafitti being whitewashed by a diligent Mr Ahmed a few days ago? The Daily Mail reported it with the suggestive headline Bye bye Banksy! Iconic painting whitewashed by bungling worker after building is transformed into Muslim centre. 

According to the newspaper Mr Ahmed was working on a building on Fishponds Road (Bristol) when he saw one of Banksy's most iconic images (a gorilla with a pink mask) and decided to whitewash it. 

Banksy's gorilla after being whitewashed
Mr Ahmed is reported to have said:
I thought it was worthless.I didn’t know it was valuable. That’s why I painted over it. I really am sorry if people are upset.

Mr Ahmed seems to be really upset himself, and has hired a conservator to try to remove the whitewash. Let's see how this unfolds.

The BBC News Magazine shows a different angle of a similar story. The article Who, What, Why: How do you graffiti-proof public art? discusses how the  Ebbsfleet Landmark Project is at risk because of the difficulties associated with keeping sculptures "graffit-free".  The project, a competition for an artwork to be placed in a public space, was jeopardized after the costs of keeping the winning proposal clean (Mark Wallinger's 50m white horse) were calculated: an original budget of £2m went up to £12m. 

The article includes the views of professionals involved with the Anti-Graffiti Association and the Design Against Crime Research Centre. Among other things, they discuss:
  • the use of sacrificial or permanent coatings to protect public art 
  • target-hardening techniques
  • community engagement

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

How NOT to treat your paintings

The BBC needs a conservator. Will some one please help them?

I came to this candid conclusion after watching episode 4 of Fake or Fortune, a BBC series where "journalist Fiona Bruce teams up with art expert Philip Mould to investigate mysteries behind paintings". Episode 4 focusses on a painting up for auction in South Africa - the painting is suspected of having been looted/stolen during WW2 and the series'  presenters think it could be a Rembrandt...  How exciting. 

Well, it was not very exciting  to see the art expert initiating the journalist on the wonders of using cotton wool to apply white spirit on the painted surface so as to enhance the details of the painting for a few seconds. When the journalist shows hesitation (well done, Fiona, you were right, you should not do that!) the art expert 'expertly' explains that it is okay, as "it is not acetone" and therefore, according to him, it will not damage the varnish.

How does he know? Has he tested the varnish? Has he tested the paint layers underneath? Let's hope he did because the same action was repeated  various other times during the programme. I can't help but wonder whether they really had to teach a lesson on how NOT to treat any painting, let alone one suspected to be a Rembrandt.

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