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May 27, 2010

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Art stays, by popular demand

BECAUSE residents mobilized to stop the city from erasing it, graffiti made by a group of foreign artists is still on display on the wall of an old residential lane.

The graffiti on the houses in the Tielu residential area on Huachi Road, Putuo District, was supposed to be all gone by yesterday because it had never been permitted by the residential committee.

Workers started erasing it early this week but were soon stopped by the residents of Tielu.

"I like it and I don't want the artistic works on my wall to be covered," said resident Chen Jisheng, who made the matter public by tipping off Shanghai television.

Urban management regulations regard random graffiti in the streets as illegal. Neighborhood committees have the right to enforce the regulations inside communities, according to Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau yesterday.

This time, though, officials listened to the residents.

"We do things according to the residents' will," said official surnamed Zhang of the Shiquan Road subdistrict office. "It they want to keep them, we're fine with them."

At least two pieces were covered with gray paint before the city backed off, but most of the graffiti was untouched.

William Zhou, local coordinator of the graffiti, said the artists first painted at a school of continuing study with prior approval. But they went to the lane outside of the school after the residents said they liked the works.

"We're not supposed to paint outside the school but people like us and our pieces," said one of the artists, Mathias K?hler from Germany. "Some of them even asked us to paint their walls and showed us their ideas."

Another German artist, Akim Walta, said they weren't doing ordinary graffiti but "making them with local identity" - such as one showing a kid bathing in a small tub in the open air right beside a real basin and over a water drain.

The artists also mixed in traditional Chinese elements such as a dragon, phoenix and Chinese characters.

It all looks a lot better, residents said, than the fliers that usually get stuck or sprayed on their walls.

"I'm OK with the graffiti although I don't know how to appreciate it," said a fruit seller in the lane surnamed Zhao.

"They look good to me and much prettier than the fliers."

But not everyone favors the street art.

An official surnamed Lu of the neighborhood committee told Shanghai Daily that some residents had informed the committee about the graffiti and said public safety was an issue because they weren't familiar with the artists.

"We worried about the negative impression of the city, as strange foreigners kept coming in and out," Lu said yesterday. "We don't know their language and we didn't know what they were going to paint. If they painted something negative, it would be big trouble for us."


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