Thursday, February 24, 2011

Len Brown loves dull grey walls


After. The Council workers missed the top part of the mural, so came back and painted over it.

I heard earlier today via Twitter from local artist Askew (Elliot O'Donnell) that the Auckland Council had painted over one of the central city's best graffiti art murals, up on Poynton Terrace, off Pitt St. This mural has been there for a number of years, and has been painted and repainted numerous times by Askew and his crew. It provides some much needed colour in a drab access lane.

Askew says the order to paint over the mural came from Tony Capton but apparently the request came from higher up in the Council. He says even the guys painting it out were astounded. They thought there had been a mistake so they double-checked. This was painted over without permission of the owner or the tenants, both whom are very upset by this, as are many locals in the area.

Askew says "I've had permission for the wall for over 10 years - consistently spoken with the owners and even been paid once or twice for it."

I lived in that area for a while and that mural definitely added something of value to the neighborhood. I  even used that mural as a backdrop for this music video... it's in the shots with Sandy Mill singing...

The Council's own website states that "If the graffiti appears to be an artwork ie permission was given for the work to be done, it will not be removed." (source)

I also heard from someone who spoke to some cleaners in town recently who said they've been brought in to clean up for the RWC. Is that what Len Brown aspires for our city to present to the world? Bland grey walls that say nothing about us?

Please email Len Brown and ask him why this was done. It will only take a minute.
Email him on

Image one and two from Askews blog. See Mr Rimoni's blog for more shots of the wall.

UDATE: Tues 1 March - Len Brown apologised via Twitter to Askew yesterday. He also replied to me, saying "looks like a genuine mistake by council staff. My office is moving to sort it out".  Today the Mayor contacted Askew via Twitter to say "council officers should be in touch with you, business owner & K Rd Ass. with options."

This story was picked by by the New Zealand Herald's Ana Samways, and featured in her column today. A number of commenters below also pointed me to the murals that have been buffed (painted over) by the Council. There are at least three of them in recent times, apparently. One was a mural painted as a tribute to a young couple and their baby, all killed in a car accident when a truck ran into them.

This action at Poynton Terrace now appears to be part of a wider cleanup effort, possibly linked to the Rugby World Cup. The AKT blog reports that efforts are underway to paint out tagging and graffiti from the rail corridor.

Also, listen to BFM's interview with Askew from last Friday here. Askew says he went down to the site as soon as he heard about it and talked with the painters. When they'd gone back and double-checked that there were supposed to paint over this mural, they were told that it was  illegal and the landlord had asked for it to be painted over. That simply isn't true.

ADDED June 29, 2011: The Auckland Council has put out a call for expressions of interest from artists to replace the mural. See The Big Idea. The Council's Public Art Team say on their Facebook page that "we'd welcome an EOI from Askew. The bonus is that whomever is awarded the contract will get an artists fee, and materials paid, so won't have to fund it out of their own pocket."

That's not a bonus - that's what Len Brown undertook to do after admitting the Council made a mistake painting out the mural. Askew and friends paid for that mural out of his own pocket for ten years.

ADDED August 23, 2011:
The Auckland Council has agreed to let Askew handle the reinstatement of the mural. From Askew's blog, posted earlier today:

"A couple of weeks ago I met with Rob Garret who is Auckland Council’s public arts facilitator and we came to a very amicable agreement – one that is going to enable a positive outcome that will benefit everyone involved and hopefully also benefit many others.

The Council agreed to withdraw their call for submissions for the new mural and have instead agreed to make a settlement with me on behalf of the artists. I was asked to price out a fair figure on par with what we would charge for a similar sized mural work in a commercial situation. I came up with the figure of $10,440.00 which breaks down like this:

Materials: $3,460.00
Access Equipment: $1,100.00
Artist fees: $5,700.00

This morning we found that the amount of $10,440.00 + GST had been deposited into our account and as promised we put it to some charitable causes – after we paid the GST direct to the Government of course! This is where the money went:

$4,394.00 - Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake Appeal
$4,394.00 – Canterbury SPCA Earthquake Appeal

And in light of the passing of NYC graffiti Legend Case2 last week – we donated the remaining $1,316.00 USD needed to reach their goal of $5,400.00 for his funeral costs.

So that’s the first aspect of this all sorted – what about the art work?

At this stage – we can’t paint the replacement mural at Poynten Tce but in the next couple of weeks I will seek to talk directly with the landlords there and see if we can just return things back to the way it was. We will paint and maintain that site again if possible.

In the mean time, The K’ Road Business Association have come to us with an alternative location, which is the side of 420/Rising Sun etc, the side facing the motorway. In an ideal world we will paint both locations or at the very least just the 420 spot but I have pulled together a fantastic team of local artists to get involved and will make more announcements about the project as it develops. At this stage it will likely be towards the end of the year as everyone involved are over-committed with their own projects for at least the next 2 months..."


JKing said...

I recall something similar happening around the Commonwealth Games (I think) -- all gig posters were ruthlessly and consistently removed in the days and weeks leading up to the Games. No-one would admit it was an official policy ... but it was maintained up to and through the Games ... and then stopped.

Fucking bullshit.

Peter said...

Thanks, Mr King. I vaguely recall Auckland getting whitewashed for the Commonwealth Games too. And they shipped off the homeless people too for a few weeks...

JKing said...

That kind of street art is not necessarily to my own taste ... but the idea of the face of the city is to be defined by and for some sporting event is repugnant.

No-one will front up and say it ... but someone made the call -- for all the rest of Auckland -- that that kind of stuff would be covered over, regardless of what the community or property owners think.

What next? Telling us to tuck our shirts in and clean our shoes?

Dylan said...

This wasn't my favourite of Askew's murals, but it's a shitload better than the grey wall that will soon be covered in tags. If the buildings owners and residents liked it, and it was well maintained (which it seemed to be) then the Council have way overstepped the mark on this.

Here is the email I sent to Len:
Hi Len,

I'm sure you've heard from a few people on this, but I want to add myself to the list of those very disappointed by the removal of the authorised and well-maintained mural on Poynton Tce in the city. As I'm sure you know by now it was done without consultation with the building's owner, residents or the artist and also apparently in contravention of the council's own policy.

Frankly I want to see a public apology from yourself or someone suitable in the council and I'd like to see the council pay to have a suitable replacement painted by Askew and his crew. Further, I'd like to encourage the council to actively work with talented urban artists like Askew to provide some colour and interest to other suitable areas around the city. This mural was not tagging or vandalism, and actually was very effective in discouraging that from the area. The plain grey wall is now certain to attract taggers where once there was an attractive and well-crafted mural.

Robyn said...

I'm even more annoyed to hear that the building's owners and tenants were ok with the mural being this. This turns the council's buff into an act of vandalism - they've taken a cheerful lane and made it cold. Shame on Mayor Len. Shame on him for missing the point.

regan said...

This is disgraceful. The council needs to be held accountable for this sort of destruction. They can arrest and charge taggers for the mess they make of public and private property. Maybe we need to find a way to charge them with willful damage to to public art. It makes me so F#@%ing angry.

Gemma said...

I cannot believe they have done this. When I worked on Poynton Tce that piece made my day everyday! Why oh why can our council not see that graffti art is what will make this city special and not the terrible mess they have created.

Nick Fracture said...

This is so whack. Nice work Len Brown, you douchebag. I agree with Robyn's comment about our council totally missing the point.

In Melbourne the council commissions amazing graffiti artists from around the world to come over and paint the city walls because they get it... that public art - even just colour - says to the world that this city is a vibrant, creative hub. What message is Auckland sending...? "We prefer grey, thanks." Total fucking horseshit.

Daniel Illson said...

Tut fuckin' tut.

Agree with Dylan. Not his best work, but a whole lot better than a grey wall.

My email has been sent to Lenny B.

Dylan said...

Agree with Dylan. Not his best work, but a whole lot better than a grey wall.

The work is good, just not as much my taste as some of his other stuff :)

Ligga said...

That is so shit, they should bulldoze half the shit they build in AK, thats the real ugly shit. The council buffed my piece dedicated to David Lange on symonds street, i had full permission. John campbell was photographed in front of it on the contents page of listener. Peter Lange found out where i lived and gave me a fucking tea pot. Fuck the buff bitches!!!!

Simon said...

Jesus, that is appalling. I thought Mr Brown was supposed to make a difference in Auckland.

Instead his council does their very best to make the city of Auckland a less interesting place.

I so hate the mediocre middle of NZ.

The council should be forced to run that mural as a banner on their website for the next twelve months and host an image of it thereafter, with a formal apology running underneath.

Anonymous said...

I sent this email, this is a crime.

Dear Len,

I was pleased you were voted in as mayor, however now I have grave doubts about your competency.

It is not okay to have your ACC people, paid for with my rates, rashly paint over a private property mural, nothing to do with the ACC and on a private building, thanks.

The Poynton Tce mural was wonderful, many people loved it and you've destroyed it.

Please think again before wrecking the visual interest of inner-city Auckland, where our tolerance of diversity and our many talents are justly world famous. Did you know the artist has won awards overseas, many times been awarded 'Best in the World' for what he paints, with his amazing crew? Yes, this mural was fine art, but you our mayor are a vandal, Len Brown.

jonathan ganley said...

The slab concrete wall that backs onto Mt Eden Railway station has also been cleaned up - there's been ever-changing, vibrant pieces there for almost twenty years.

baruk said...

the piece in the onehunga library parking lot is gone too, replaced with the ugly grey-green paint. an ugly-as-hell mural (but 'officially' sanctioned i guess) stays.

DCB said...

I'm a kiwi living in london and was dismayed to read this.

Art by the likes Banksy, Dface and other more traditional street artists in London are welcomed in many areas of the city as they can ADD value to a property and area in some cases, and I don't just mean aesthetical value.

The sooner Auckland council and Len Brown wake up and see the imporatance and value that street art has in making a city feel more of a place with culture, unique identity, integrity and spirit the better.

Shame on his vandalism to something beautiful. I think the least the council can do now is offer some funds to the property owner and/or the artist/s so they can re-work the wall to its proper and rightful state, innit?


Peter said...

comment via Twitter from Kate McDermott... "My brother was commissioned by the council to do a mural in memory of 3 friends killed in a car accident. Was incredible. Now gone."

barry said...

i think the job at hand is to find out who actually gave the order to paint over the ARTWORK and make that name public, was it Len Brown ?

Ani said...

@Peter That's fucking atrocious!

Anonymous said...


I'm a kiwi living in Melbourne and exactly the same - this is such a beautiful city because of the street art everywhere.

Auckland needs some brightening up!!

FO Len Brown

Voltron1971 said...

Auckland City Council are reaffirming their stance to promote Auckland as a dull and bland backwater city for the lead up to the Rugby World Cup.

...Just wondering, is it illegal to send Len Brown an email calling him a f_ckin' cunt?

Dear Len,

You know what you are? You're a fookin' c_nt, that's what you are.


Dylan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dylan said...

I'm reluctant to blame Len Brown for this personally, and I think it's unfair to do so. The council is basically just a big company - there's whole layers of middle management that can make decisions like this without consulting the mayor, as there should be.

However he is ultimately responsible for the actions of his council - so asking for an explanation or action from Len is fair, but attributing these actions to him personally is not.

RobDog said...

One way to look at it, is that Len's plan is sure to back fire. The nice dull greay canvas is now ripe for a new piece!

Shame about the old one though.

Anonymous said...

Oh the irony. I understand a lot of the "artist" that create this type of work start as taggers. If these artists don't fit that description - ignore the rest.....

Now you know how the owners of buildings feel after the scummy losers turn up wih their stolen paint cans and deface property that does not belong to them. Are you annoyed you lost something you put your heart and sole into - good - now you know how we feel.

Too bad

Th' T

daveyraveywavey said...

Dear David
The Mayor became aware of this situation last week and was briefed by council staff who were looking into it.

Staff had immediately started an investigation when The K Road Business Association alerted the council to the issue.

It was discovered that this was a genuine error and the council is taking full responsibility to rectify the situation and install a new artwork as soon as possible. Council contractors mistakenly painted over this mural after a request by an Auckland Council anti-graffiti volunteer. The council was under the impression that the business owner wanted the work removed.

Key staff have already met to discuss how the matter will be resolved and have had initial conversations with all parties, including the original artist, regarding a replacement mural.

This incident is unusual. It does provide us an opportunity for us to work more closely with business and property owners and our volunteers to ensure any private property, including murals, are not damaged.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen again, council staff have created a more robust process which includes always double checking with business owners and property owners before any graffiti is removed. In addition, the new art work will be placed on a ‘No Action List’ ensuring there is no confusion whether any artworks should be removed or not.

Kind regards

Emma Bunting
Office of the Mayor

Peter said...

Hi Dave

thanks for posting that - I got the same reply. The No Action list sounds great, til you ask who decides what murals go on it? That reply doesn't explain why a Council volunteer managed to have such sway either.

fte said...

everyone who loves street art should become an auckland council anti-graffiti volunteer... and report every grey wall in the city!

Little Monster said...

keen for some cocks up there instead?