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July 6, 2011

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End of an era for wall of graffiti

A GRAFFITI wall along Suzhou Creek will be torn down later this year to make way for a commercial development, planning officials in Putuo District revealed yesterday.

In response, graffiti artists, as well as many young people, have called for legal spaces to be provided.

Although graffiti isn't illegal, officials consider it a public nuisance that harms the city's image, and artists have to play a game of "hide-and-seek" with authorities if they have no places to paint.

"I'll keep doing pieces on the wall until it is torn down," said a local graffiti artist known as Shier. The 26-year-old man said he and his fellow artists had heard about the plan but as long as the wall remains, they will keep using it.

The wall measures 600 meters along and is on Moganshan Road in Putuo District near the Creative Park.

He Hui, a Creative Park security guard, said people come every day to look at the graffiti.

Officials at the district's relocation office said the complex was expected to be relocated to make way for a business zone. An old flour mill in the area will be preserved but the graffiti wall will be knocked down.

One tourist said she felt sorry for the artists.

"This is real art," said Gloria Alvarez from New York. "It's terrible for Shanghai to lose such a beautiful wall."

Alvarez said there is a neighborhood called Five Points in Manhattan that allows graffiti artists to legally create their works.

To most local graffiti artists, tearing down walls or painting over them with plain-colored paint just seems to be the nature of the game.

Before the wall on Moganshan Road, there was a longer one full of graffiti along Shuangyang Road N. in Yangpu District. But it was eventually painted white by urban management officials.

"Graffiti, being a forcible art form that illegally utilizes the 'skin' of the city as its medium of expression, is surely born to be controversial," said another local artist known as Rois. "Despite some neatly designed and crafted graffiti pieces here and there, it's more common to see unskilled doodles and purely destructive 'bombing' and 'tagging' that pollute the visual appearance of the city."

Chen Yuan, a clerk at an art gallery in Creative Park, said the wall is a good thing.

"The wall and Creative Park supplement each other and have created a unique scene," she said. "Such places make the city more interesting and should be protected."

But the graffiti dose not interest every one, especially older residents.

"It's hard to understand," said a resident surnamed Gu. "It would be much better if the wall was inside Creative Park, not on the street."


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