A row has broken out between Brighton’s most well-known street artist and long-established city-conservation group over a North Laine mural.
At issue is Aroe MSK’s mural on the side of Gelato Gusto in Church Street, which until recently advertised Bombay Sapphire gin.
This fell foul of council rules outlawing advertising without planning permission – but even after the gin bottle and slogans was painted over after a month, the Brighton Society argues it is still in breach of the rules.
Now, it says, the mural is effectively an advert for Aroe MSK’s own artwork, which is on sale at the nearby Art Republic gallery.
The Brighton Society, which was founded in 1974 to protest the demolition of Brighton Station and has campaigned against other controversial schemes, objected to the mural being painted in a conservation area.
It said: “AROE blatantly advertises his name and work on the same mural. He sells work at Artrepublic which is close to the mural; that’s ok,the mural ad is not.
“The Brighton Society have lodged a complaint with Planning enforcement about AROE advertising his name.”
Aroe, real name Paul Barlow, told Brighton and Hove News: “I was approached to do the mural which was paid for by Bombay Sapphire to last one month and then I was asked to paint over it.
“It’s got nothing to do with any pressure to get rid of it. They only paid for one month.
“It’s like the El Capitan mural – that was only meant to be there for one month, but people liked it so the guy let it stay up and then people felt they had ownership over it. It was only meant to be an advert.
“People seem to think these things magically appear.
“I’m not some sort of weird hippy. I have a family, I pay tax, I do this for a living and I got paid amounts of money to do my paintings.
“I don’t care about some magnolia person from the middle of Brighton telling me what to do.”
Caught in the middle of the row is Brighton and Hove City Council, which has just launched its own consultation on how it should tackle graffiti in the city – albeit with more of a focus on tagging rather than commissioned murals.
Of this particular case, it said: “A council spokesperson said: “The art that displays the name AROE is not considered as advertising or that would mean every street artist that signs their artwork would be advertising, which is not the case.
“If the art work is commissioned by the building’s owner then we wouldn’t take enforcement action.”
The rules over street art in the city are fairly clear cut – but there are grey areas.
Murals such as those Aroe MSK is usually commissioned are allowed, provided the owner of the building has given permission and they are non-commercial.
Those featuring advertising would need to have planning permission – although in practice, the council’s enforcement team rarely takes formal action.
Cases where notices have been served include two in Western Road, Brighton – the Taste of Sahara mural which had the advertising words painted over, and the Pie Society mural which remains after the restaurant went bust.
If artists are caught painting without permission by the city’s environmental enforcement officers, they can be fined £75.
Last week Aroe escaped one such fine – for the mural below – when he was able to call the owner of the building, Vantage Point, who told the environmental enforcement officer he had permission.
Offensive tagging will be removed by the council. Part of the council’s current consultation is asking whether non-offensive tagging should be removed by the council, with the owners of the tagged property handed the bill.
This would mainly be telecommunications and transport companies who own street furniture and arches, but private homeowners would also theoretically be liable.
One constant issue is where you draw the line between tagging and murals. Artists have been fined for painting the kind of murals many would consider street art, rather than graffiti vandalism.
In contrast, when social housing was built over Kensington Street’s “graffiti alley”, the council commissioned photographs of the artwork to be displayed and then stored at Jubilee Library.