Because Bologna’s wealthiest citizens and the powers-that-be cannot be trusted with street art, Blu and a crew of volunteers are in the process of buffing all of his murals in Bologna, Italy. Next week, a detestable exhibition opens in Bologna that will include chopped up murals by Blu and other street artists. The artists did not consent to the removal of their work, and, at least in Blu’s case, they are not happy about having it mangled and exhibited out of context. It also doesn’t help that the exhibition is backed by a large bank and shady Bologna power-brokers. In response, Blu has organized a mass buffing to remove all of his work, 20 years worth, from Bologna’s streets.
Blu has buffed his own work before, when property developers in Berlin were using his mural to sell condos. That was one mural. This time, it’s every one of his murals in an entire city. And it makes sense. Blu’s murals art anti-state, anti-bank, environmentalist, anti-capitalist, pro-activist… certainly not made to make bankers and career politicians look good. To remove these murals and exhibit them in this exhibition is to completely upend their meaning and importance. It’s a disgrace.
The must-read full story of what’s happening in Bologna, as well as the political context of the mural and the exhibition, including the can be found here. A few choice quotes from that article:
This exhibition will embellish and legitimise the hoarding of art taken off the street, which is only going to please unscrupled collectors and merchants.
This “street art” exhibition is representative of a model of urban space that we must fight, a model based on private accumulation which commodifies life and creativity for the profits of the usual few people.
After having denounced and criminalised graffiti as vandalism, after having oppressed the youth culture that created them, after having evacuated the places which functioned as laboratories for those artists, now Bologna’s powers-that-be pose as the saviours of street art.
The people who take this action don’t accept that yet another shared asset is appropriated, they don’t want yet another enclosure and a ticket to buy.
On his blog, Blu has written a brief statement about the buffing: “In Bologna, there is no more Blu, and there will be no more while the tycoons speculate [on street art]. For acknowledgments or complaints, you know who to contact.”
Online, the international street art community has largely been echoing Blu’s statement and supporting the mass buffing:
Andreco, who helped buff Blu’s murals, said, “Deciding which wall to paint or not paint has always been one of our free choice. This operation, to uncork the walls and move them elsewhere, oversteps this freedom.”
Living Walls’ Mónica Campana said, “It’s been a fun ride y’all, but this is over.”
Nuart’s Martyn Reed said, “Go Blu,” and called the action “one of Street’s Art’s most audacious and important moves in recent times.”
Blu’s mass-buffing is unfortunate, but admirable and necessary. The murals will be missed, but his action helps ensure that Bologna’s public spaces are for the people of Bologna, not the profit of Bologna’s elite. Bologna’s curators and elites deserve only grey walls. Bologna’s people deserve this massive reset button, which returns public space to the public and creates an opportunity for the next generation counter-cultural content.
As fans, the only respectable action is to support Blu and the people of Bologna by boycotting the Museo della Storia di Bologna’s “street art exhibition.”
Blu goes black, buffing his own work in Berlin
at 2014 also, Blu shocked Berlin by orchestrating the removal of two of his own iconic murals, including a mural that was at one point a collaboration with JR. The murals were located in the city’s famous Kreuzberg neighborhood, which was once home to squatters and artists, but is now undergoing significant and swift gentrification.
The squatters in the buildings Blu had painted were recently evicted, and a real estate developer is about to build on the empty lot in front of the murals. Apparently, the new condos would have had a great view of the murals. So, one night last week, a team with two lifts painted the walls black, and they did it with Blu’s support.
Blu commented, “After witnessing the changes happening in the surrounding area during the last years, we felt it was time to erase both walls.”
Here’s a gif of the buff job from Blu: