Our arts correspondent, BELLA BARTOCK, on some withering criticism of the borough’s street art from a leading social commentator
Jonathan Meades, the widely respected commentator, has called Croydon Council leader Tony Newman “laughably gullible” and described the street art which has been paid for by the local council as “crass”.
Meades made the remarks in a letter to Private Eye, the fortnightly satirical magazine, after it reported that the television film-maker had reason to pursue Croydon-based art dealer Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison for the return of some artworks he owns.
Zuchowski-Morrison is a former bankrupt who previously ran the Rise Gallery on St George’s Walk, from where he used tens of thousands of pounds from the council to commission various artists to paint murals on the sides of buildings around the town centre.
Council chief exec Jo “We’re Not Stupid” Negrini regularly wheeled out Zuchowski-Morrison at public events, in this country and abroad, in an effort to “artwash” the borough’s regeneration projects.
French-based Meades is described on his Wikipedia profile as “brainy, scabrous, mischievous,” “iconoclastic” and possessed of “a polymathic breadth of knowledge and truly caustic wit”.
In his letter to Lord Gnome, Meades calls Zuchowski-Morrison “the tricky art dealer”. He writes that, “for reasons that remain incomprehensible, he refused to return [the artworks] till I threatened him with legal action”.
And Meades adds: “I have no doubt that he’ll continue to be indulged by the laughably gullible leader of Croydon Council and will continue to get his hands on public money to inflict more of his crass street art on that hapless borough.”
Following a launch at the end of last year staged in the offices of council-owned builders Brick by Brick, Zuchowski-Morrison is now operating from premises on Dingwall Road.
Croydon is to be London’s Borough of Culture in 2023.
- Help support Inside Croydon’s award-winning, news-breaking journalism, and get money-off offers, exclusive content and priority booking for special events. Click here to find out more
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or what to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and BBC London News
- Inside Croydon named Journalist of the Year at 2018 Anna Kennedy Online Autism Heroes Awards
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: For three consecutive years, 2017, 2018 and 2019, Inside Croydon has been the source for award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
- Inside Croydon had 1.6million pages viewed by 721,000 unique visitors in 2019
I love Jonathan Meades.
Hapless describes the borough absolutely perfectly. All our Council leaders, acolytes and associates, whatever colour the flag that they are waving, have been laughably credulous and easy prey for any sharp eyed con man that turns up.
Witness Minerva and St Georges Walk, the Blessed Saint Barwell and Westfield and Tony, bless his pure little heart, and anyone with a good story to tell… the list of those is too long for today.
With Newman’s Laughable Gullibility is a sense of ‘stupid willingness’ to follow every little edict that emanates from Labour controlled City Hall.
The Mayor says hop and Croydon leaps.
Other, more savvy boroughs, bide their time and gauge the consensus in the rest of London before acting or shifting policy.
Not so, Croydon; we go in running, all guns firing and in the case of Cllr Paul Scott, in the wrong direction. Resulting in one of the most poorly conceived and damaging planning policies in the UK.
Is it just me, but don’t you feel happier when you have smart people in charge?
Meades is being far too polite
I have not by any means seen every item of “public art” in the borough of Croydon, and there are certainly a few that I have seen that don’t appeal to me, but there are several that do.
I was talking with a fellow Croydon resident a year or so ago, probably in the pub, about murals. He mentioned and liked the large one of Winston Churchill which is located on a blank wall end opposite what older residents like me will remember as “Turtles”, facing the old “Grants” . Winston’s face is made up of black-painted marks on a white background, the marks being words from his speeches. From a distance, these muzz to become a sort of pixellated face. Clever, and certainly not describable as “crass”, in my view.
Around London, there are some truly excellent examples of public mural art. Some brighten up “meanwhile spaces” on such blank walls that will sooner or later be demolished. Others transform ugly structures like …electricity transformer buildings. Croydon would be drabber without the examples we have.
Croydon’s skyline coloured lighting on big buildings has long been a beautiful addition to the night-time landscape, an idea whch i would like to see extended to lighting the flyover as viewed from High Street and Old town, and uplighting of a few specific trees.
In Purley, in a public park along the Brighton Road, a very recent addition to the public art of Croydon has been a steel sculpture– a large , greater than over life size silhouette, of two shire horses pulling two waggons on the Croydon to Merstham section of the Surrey Iron Railway , right on the site of the line. Designed by a Scottish public artist, and recently unveiled.
Also in Purey, and probably funded by the developers of the Baptist church redevelopment of the “Island Site”, is some excellent “hoarding art” that in my view is of top quality. It certainly cheers up this sad hole in the urban fabric , and adds a valuable dimension to the otherwise drab street scene.
I am glad that Croydon has and is still funding public art, and “street art” such as murals. There will always be a debate about quality, aesthetics and value for money. There must be room for a variety of styles and topics.
My view is that Public Art must be meaningful to the general public.
After all, they are paying for it through their taxes.
That does not preclude comic-book style murals, and spray-can art, but they need to be well-done. Beauty is a huge bonus. Public art should make the viewers stop and think, and hopefully think– “that is worth it”….even if it might not be their “cup of tea”.
On the other hand, self-indulgent public art– ego trips of a self-defined and often self-deluded “artist” — does exist. One hopes, not for too long.