Maribyrnong Council has become involved in another street art censorship controversy, this time involving an image of Donald Trump.
BiGfiSh design and fabrication studio in Footscray recently commissioned Yarraville artist Van T Rudd to create the mural after principal Alfons van Maanen was impressed by a smaller version of the work he had seen.
The mural depicted protestors throwing rocks at an army tank topped by the face of US President Donald Trump, drawing on iconic images of Palestinian youth throwing rocks at approaching Israeli army tanks.
It also includes Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL football player who earned Mr Trump’s wrath for spearheading protests against racial injustice in the United States by not standing while the national anthem was being played before the start of games.
About a week after the mural was completed Mr van Maanen received a call from Maribyrnong Council expressing concern over the mural.
Mr van Maanen said the council, which owns the building, had received complaints and was insisting the mural had to go.
“I have always been a fan of Van’s art which is political and out-there,” he said.
“So I commissioned Van to do the mural, but our landlord is Council and I got a phone call from Council saying they were concerned about it and it needs to be removed.”
Mr van Maanen said he thought it was important for political discussions to be taking place in the public realm, but he can appreciate the council’s position.
He said he wanted to come up with a solution rather than obliterate the work entirely, so has painted a white square over Mr Trump’s face, leaving only the distinctive fluffy coiffure.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said.
“I understand council’s point of view, they need to take these comments on board, if somebody has taken offence and complained to council.
“They were clear that it’s because it’s a political statement on a council building.”
Rudd has posted a picture of the mural with the face whited out to social media, saying the council is enforcing its political agenda of trying to take out the politics in an artwork.
“Was so nice that the wall was offered for me to paint on, yet the conservatism of the council finds ways to override these forms of legitimate expression.”
In May this year Maribyrnong Council censored another of Mr Rudd’s artworks, on a private business wall on Donald Street in central Footscray.
That mural depicted a bulldog wearing a Western Bulldogs football guernsey urinating on One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson.
Maribyrnong Council painted over Senator Hanson’s face, leaving just the bulldog with a cocked leg.
The mural was said to have contravened the Graffiti Prevention Act 2007.
Last year the Council threatened to fine and prosecute a business in West Footscray after street artist Lushsux painted a mural of then-US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in a skimpy swimsuit.
Lushsux then painted over the image to dress Ms Clinton in a Muslim niqab.
The real estate agent then arranged for the mural’s complete removal.
In 2015 Yarraville street artist Heesco expressed surprise at Maribyrnong council censoring part of a mural he created to celebrate the Yarraville community.
Heesco had included a ‘No Paid Parking in Yarraville’ message in the mural, a reflection of the community’s campaign to keep parking meters out of the village.
The council painted over the “political messaging” as it had not been within the commissioned work’s agreed specifications.
Maribyrnong Council Director of Planning Services, Nigel Higgins, said Mr Rudd’s Donald Trump mural was also in contravention of the Graffiti Prevention Act 2007, which Council is responsible for enforcing.
The Act states that a person must not mark graffiti that is visible from a public place if the graffiti, or any part of the graffiti, “would offend a reasonable person”.
“Under this Act, works that are visible from a public place and deemed offensive can be removed, whether or not complaints have been received from the community,” Mr Higgins said.
“The request to alter or remove the mural was due to it being offensive and not because of the political statement expressed.”