When I first saw this piece on Romanywg’s Flickr stream I felt a little uneasy about it’s location. In fact while he’d got a great photo and I thought the street art by Specter looked stunning I really didn’t like the fact that it had obviously been placed directly over a piece of local history. Old painted signs like this one for Boyd Pianos are an increasingly rare sight in London. I love them as they provide a ready made link back to the past, often reappearing when more crass modern signs have been taken down. Pure Evil (the gallery that is putting on Specter’s show at the moment) commented on Flickr that the art was just wheatpasted onto the wall and would disintegrate over time. I don’t know about that – only time will tell. It’s just as likely the wall will be hit up by less successfully applied art or colonised by London’s street poster teams – or, perhaps worse, blasted off by an over zealous graffiti removal crew. If that’s the case we’ll have lost a part of this ‘ghost sign’. There’s no point in hand wringing about this instance – we’ll have to see what the wall looks like in a few months time to get some perspective (continues below).
I went to take a look at Specter’s work today and get a picture. On the way back I saw that the excellent Verynearlyalmost blog had already covered the story and come down on the side of street art instead of history. They’ve got a point – street art of course works best when it interracts with the urban environment and this piece certainly does that exceptionally well. It’s just the fact that it potentially may result in something that has stood there so long and that has its own fans being damaged. It’s my own personal opinion that street art/graffiti generally shouldn’t go over obviously historical pieces. For me there’s a difference in say the ethics behind spray painting a modern Tube train than an old rail coach thats been lovingly restored by volunteers over several years as happened with the carriages used for the Hogwarts Express and other heritage trains back in 2003. Banksy even issued a rare denial once when a copy of his placard bearing apes turned up on a war memorial. Of course others have different agendas and quite frankly some don’t give a toss about history and see it as an irrelevance. I doubt from conversations with Pure Evil in the past that he’s one of those.
I’m interested in others views on this subject.