Street Art is quite a borderline issue, with no buffer zone between what some consider as criminal and what others consider as visual art. While this practice is common in many European countries, despite it still being quite a confusing issue for government to grapple with, it is still an emerging cultural phenomenon in Malta. However, as with most things in this country, its ‘insertion’ into our lives is not being properly handled by local street artists.
This morning, residents and commuters entering the capital city of Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stumbled on the following tasteful drawing stamped on the newly completed gate.
Without going into the artistic merits of this artwork (which I personally find quite cool), its presence on a national monument disgusts me. I consider this to be an act of vandalism, as opposed to a work of art with which the artist is trying to spread the message of peace or love (or whichever message commentators wish to derive). If the artist wanted to display his craft in this space, he/she could have easily done so by using one of those red board visible in the picture above. If the public and/or government wanted to retain this piece, they could easily display a movable board in the city and auction it off or do whatever they want with it.
The funny thing is how some people compare this work to what is done by leading street artists such as Banksy, Stik, Inkie and so on. Such artists would never dare deface a national monument that belongs to the people. They use everyday locations as a platform for their work, such as shop shutters, the sides of supermarkets, sidewalks, dilapidated buildings, bridges and so on.
Street art, in my amateur opinion, is a powerful tool that has an astonishing effect when used in the right place. Having encountered numerous pieces in Shoreditch, Camden and Hackney during my time in London, I can appreciate their enriching value in an otherwise disheveled area.
I sincerely hope that the perpetrator who defaced the new city gate is caught and fined. Such acts will continue to instigate hate and ignorance on this type of art – remember that we Maltese are quite impressionable when such things happen… I also hope that genuine Maltese street artists come together and given their insight into this.