Graffitti rabbit threatened with extinction

ROA, a secretive Belgian street artist who, like Banksy, has showcased his work in east London, painted a 3.5m (12ft) rabbit on the side of a recording studio in Hackney last year which could be painted after being declared as a blight on the local environment.

Beauty or Blight?

The building’s owners had granted the artist permission to create the piece, but they have been served with a removal notice by Hackney council, warning that unless they “remove or obliterate the graffiti” within 14 days, a council contractor will paint over the wall and charge them for the service.

“It’s quite the opposite of what they’re saying it is,” said Julia Craik, managing director of Premises music studios and cafe. “It’s not a blight – it really adds to the local area.

“If it was some horrible graffiti then they’d have a point, but it’s a thing of beauty in Hackney Road, which is not the greatest area in the world. Among the bingo halls and shops you’ve got a really nice artwork, which really adds something.”

ROA, who is in his early 30s, has risen to prominence over the last two years after starting out painting animal forms in a disused warehouse close to his native Ghent, in Belgium. His work can be seen in Manhattan and Brooklyn, in New York, and across Europe from Norway to Italy, while an upcoming commission will see him travel to São Paulo, in Brazil. His first solo show in the UK was staged at the Pure Evil gallery in Shoreditch, east London, this year, and he has had exhibitions in Paris in the last 12 months.

Charley Edwards, who runs the Pure Evil gallery, said: “It was the most successful show we’ve ever had in terms of people coming. You could hear the gasps as people walked in and saw his pieces.

“Banksy’s obviously more famous, but I think ROA’s work at the moment is really pushing it. What’s interesting with ROA’s work is how it interacts with the space it’s in – he’s done certain pieces where animals have been wrapped down the side of buildings.”

Edwards was with ROA when he painted the threatened rabbit, and described it as typical of his work. “He talks about repopulating the city with animals and bringing them back into the city,” Edwards said. “I think people really, really dig the rabbit – there’s a certain character to it that people just love.”

Hackney council said in a statement: “The graffiti … is clearly visible from the road and, whilst it is not the council’s position to make judgments call on whether graffiti is art or not, our task is to keep Hackney’s streets clean.

Last year, Hackney was criticised after it painted over a Banksy cartoon of the royal family that had been present on a block of flats for more than eight years. In October 2008, Westminster city council removed a mural from Newman Street, in central London, after the council’s deputy leader, Robert Davis, said keeping it would be “condoning” graffiti.

Mark Rigney, who runs a walking tour featuring ROA’s work, said: “Hackney council should realise that this art movement is a huge tourist attraction and people are crossing London and the globe to see the art upon the streets of Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets – areas which are often referred to as the epicentre for London street art.”

Article from The Guardian

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