Row after Messi images painted over street art
The wall leading to the entrance of the primary municipal corporation school in south Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village is painted with “Clean India” slogans, and the back of the school’s building now has murals of footballer Lionel Messi – as part of a campaign launched by Budweiser India.
Three such murals have come up in the neighbourhood in the past one month. At least two of the new artworks were painted over existing murals created by artists Okuda San Miguel and Mariusz Waras in 2014.
On Saturday, several artists – under the banner of St+art India Foundation, which works to promote street art, shared pictures of the murals on social media, raising concerns over “advertising in the name of street art” and promoting an alcohol brand on a school building.
Hanif Kureshi, artistic director at the foundation, said: “We had painted the school in 2014 by collaborating with the famous Spanish artist Okuda. Now, in the name of art and football, this is like subconsciously advertising alcohol by removing iconic artwork. We are not targeting a specific company, but any brand should not use public walls for such purposes. It defeats the purpose of street art.”
The mural on the building, made by Okuda, consisted of a mix of geometric patterns and animals in bright colours to depict the theme of “spiritual capitalism”. According to the artist, the artwork aimed to show the conflict between roots and capitalism by using forms of animals revered in Indian culture, such as monkeys, cows and bears.
On Sunday, that wall, which faces the HKV parking lot, had a mural covering almost the entire length of the three-storey school building depicting Messi’s journey. It includes details on his life, like his birthplace Rosario, Argentina and his youth team. A young “Leo” is also seen holding hands with an elderly lady, and standing with a football under his right foot. In the far right corner of the mural is a QR code that provides the link to the website ‘budspace.in’, which now states that The Budweiser Road to Glory campaign is over.
Despite repeated attempts, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s (SDMC) press director, Sanjay Sahay, did not comment.
Deavinder Kumar Chaudhary, president of HKV-Residents Welfare Association, said: “They had come to us to seek permission saying they wanted to make football-related artwork. So we allowed them. We don’t want any controversy, so if there is something related to liquor, they have misled us and I will get it removed tomorrow [Monday] itself.”
Narendra Chawla, leader of the House in SDMC, said: “No such murals or paintings which directly or indirectly promote liquor are allowed on any of our school walls. We are checking if any permission was sought to create this mural on our school wall.”
A Budweiser India spokesperson said that they believed in the “power of art” and wanted to show Messi’s journey to inspire people.
“As part of curating these murals, we reached out to multiple artists including St+art India, and collaborated with artists that met our creative and commercial direction through these illustrations that they curated over months. Our aim was always to offer the insider perspective into the G.O.A.T’s (greatest of all time) iconic journey and inspire fans through creative murals that celebrated his journey. As part of curating these murals, we ensured that these walls are first restored and will continue to support the creator community,” the spokesperson said.
Kureshi said that they had been approached for the same campaign in August last year. “They (Budweiser) had contacted us and wanted to do 100 murals. We said at that point that they had to do something meaningful and not just paint anything because then it would be outright advertising. It was a difference of vision and there was no further communication on it,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of graffiti artists defaced two of the Messi murals in the area on Sunday.
Kulveen Trehan, who teaches advertising to postgraduate students and research scholars at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, said: “Liquor brands often roll out campaigns where their product is not mentioned i.e. surrogate advertising as they are not allowed to advertise liquor directly.”
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