Artful’s Grenfell tribute removed while council backs graffiti

How the work by the graffiti artist The Artful Dodger appeared in Crystal Palace this week

Croydon Council’s attempts to paint itself, literally, as a hip and happening location for street art is, at you might have guessed, more than a bit bogus and ripe with hypocrisy and blatant double standards.

Because in the same week that council cabinet member Mark Watson is using thousands of pounds of public money to “celebrate” his stripping Surrey Street of half of its market stalls and replacing them with over-priced derivative artworks, a genuine piece of protest art has been allowed to be obliterated.

The work, by renowned graffiti artist The Artful Dodger, appeared overnight at the start of the week on Church Road, in the Crystal Palace Triangle, close to the borough boundary.

A dark message for the landlords and law makers who allowed the Grenfell Tower fire to happen

It is a thought-provoking and prescient piece following the Grenfell Tower disaster.

It depicts a burning tower block over the question which many residents in Camden and elsewhere in London are asking today – “how many more will follow?”, it illustrates the domino effect.

With a pop art-style character looking like a villain from a Batman graphic novel, it also makes the dark point, “If they’re allowed to get away with it, it will be corporate man’s laughter”.

It is the sort of work which tends to be seen by many, remembered by most, and respected by all.

The hoarding is along the side of the old cinema at 25 Church Road, and so may be on private property, owned by a Christian group; the artist will have required the permission of the landowners to display the work there.

Inside Croydon’s loyal reader takes up the story: “Here’s a thing. On Monday morning this week I noted a rather stunning new piece of work by The Artful Dodger on Church Road. This was on a hoarding around the former cinema.

“As of Thursday at 5pm, it had either been painted over or removed (the former, think).

The Church Street hoardings after the art work was erased on Thursday

“All art is ephemeral, I guess, but this seems a damn shame.

“I’m pretty sure that the hoarding belongs to the Kingsway church people but I’m not 100 per cent certain. Nor am I certain if it was they who ‘deleted’ the art. It could have been the council, possibly under instruction from the church.

“Pretty sure it wasn’t a direct act of God.

“I think the three black placards were part of it. They are currently strewn on the ground.”

Now here’s the thing.

This particular artwork cost local people nothing. It was original and thought-provoking. It was by a street artist of some note, who in the past has been compared to Banksy.

And yet this piece of work was not tolerated.

Connected Space’s unoriginal graffiti is tolerated, even encouraged, by Croydon Council

Meanwhile, a couple of miles away in Croydon town centre, this week our council was tolerating, even encouraging, a group calling itself  Connected Space, to daub a vast piece of tagging across other hoardings around a council-owned site. The shameless bit of corporate advertising promotes Connected Space and whatever it is they claim to do (“Co-creators of innovative technologies that transforms [sic] businesses”, apparently).

They appear to be chums of Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison, the owner of the Rise Gallery, the pet gallery owner of council CEO Jo Negrini.

Zuchowski-Morrison may be lined up to run the gallery space being built in the underground car park beneath the Fairfield Halls, and meanwhile he has been allowed to showcase his existing business along Surrey Street, all paid for at considerable public expense.

This includes another derivative piece, Boy Soldier, which shows a child armed with a grenade and which was insensitively unveiled in Surrey Street Market just days after the terrorist attack at Borough Market and London Bridge.

A week later, Zuchowski-Morrison was wheeled out by Negrini, to speak to billionaire property speculators about the council’s artwashing exploits. This time, Negrini and Zuchowski-Morrison were performing their double act at the London Real Estate Forum, staged in Berkeley Square.

Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison (far left) with Jo Negrini (fourth from right) on stage at the London Real Estate Forum earlier this month. They were representing Croydon, apparently

It’s thought unlikely that many of the property developers who attended that event will appreciate having their blocks of “exclusive luxury executive apartments” tagged or despoiled with graffiti. They won’t like it even around the poor doors areas for the social housing or “affordable” housing that they are obliged to include in the developments.

Yet on the hoardings around the old Taberner House site, the only merit of Connected Space’s piece of graffiti appears to be that it brightens up a building site. A similar end result could have been achieved by a couple of blokes equipped with a few cans of Dulux bought in a Homebase sale.

Meanwhile, it could all act as a green light to taggers and others with access to a spray can, for them to do whatever they like on other people’s property.

And much of the resulting mess will no doubt have to be cleaned up at some point by council contractors, at Council Tax-payers’ expense.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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