I’m always sad to see a lovely mural painted over but I’m equally interested in following a legal battle that has ensued. This one is between artist Dan Fontes, who is suing previous and current owners of the Nissan Dealership in Oakland, California for $400,000K for damages for painting over his well-known, Lake Merritt cloud-skyline mural.
Evidently there is a copyright issue at hand, where the dealership did not give the artist a required 90 day notice before whitewashing the mural. The dealership, under new management since the mural was originally painted, claims extortion and that the mural had to be painted over because it had been tagged and was unsightly. However, what is interesting about this case is the artist took measures to paint the mural on panels that could be removed and used a special German paint that can last hundreds of years. It is the same German paint I used to paint this public mural on panels that were installed on the side of the neighborhood school, then I know there is a coating that was probably and precisely used to mitigate tagging. It allows the top, protective layer that might be tagged to be removed without damaging the mural. I used this coating to help protect the mural from outdoor weather conditions as well as possible tagging, that never did occur. The mural was based on images that the school children had submitted and represented the four seasons related to their student garden planted in front.
A note about this mural, because there was major construction done to upgrade the school, the mural panels were removed to be used elsewhere. It remains to be seen where they are being used but here is the new school where they were located on the playground.
Getting back to the Oakland case, the artist had dropped by the dealership and left his card for someone to get back to him so he could repair the mural. They never did, granted the owner at the time was focused on his wife dying of cancer and then establighing a charity in her honor. Instead, the new owner simply painted over the mural and the artist was never contacted.
What a shame and what a mural mess that appears could all have been avoided with better communication. It will be interesting to see if the copyright issue wins this case and is worth noting for future reference.
On a positive note, the same day I ran across this story, I saw this one about Annapolis, known for his static historic sites, is “softening” their image to allow more public murals in their industrial district.
It seems to me that more and more cities are considering murals and artwork to help beautify and add interest to their streetscapes.