JB to remove ‘inappropriate’ mural by foreign artist

By Kow Gah Chie | 11:34AM Nov 11, 2013

The Johor Bahru City Council will remove three murals painted by an internationally-recognised street artist, following a controversy over one mural that addresses the high crime rate in the city.

However, city mayor Ismail Karim said, all the three murals by Lithuanian-orn Ernest Zacharevic will be removed as they were painted at inappropriate places, China Press reported today.

Earlier, Malaysiakini reported that Zacharevic – better known as Zachas – defended his mural, which has been criticised by the state government has having ‘tarnished’ the city’s image.

“Art does not damage a city’s image, crime does,” rebutted Zacharevic (right) yesterday in an email response.

The Lithuanian-born artist had reportedly been invited to the city to put up his artwork, and contributed three pieces earlier this month.

The ‘contentious’ mural, dubbed ‘JB, home of Malaysia’s very own Legoland’, shows Lego figures portraying an armed robber lying in wait to rob from a woman carrying a Chanel handbag.

Zacharevic also uploaded a photo of the mural on his Facebook page on Nov 7 and it has generated much discussion and registered more than 6,600 ‘Likes’ since then.

However, state executive councillor Tee Siew Keong (left) advised the artist to use his talent in the right way and to help promote the state’s tourism and development.

Tee also reportedly said it was up to the local council to decide if it wanted the mural to be removed.

To this, Zacharevic said his public artwork is not meant to be a permanent feature.

“I paint it and leave it. It is up to the local community to decide what happens to it, ” he said.

“If I react to every criticism I receive, I would have never paint a single painting … I celebrate democracy and embrace pluralism.

“This is how it should be – people publicly, in a civilised manner, discussing what they like and what they don’t like. As an artist I follow my own consciousness and it is up to the rest how they interpret my artwork.”

He also said everybody is entitled to an opinion and that different people have different views.

Inspiration for the mural

Zacharevic said local residents had alerted him to the crime rate in JB, and this had inspired the mural.

“Every time I asked locals if there is anything other than Legoland I should see in JB, they whispered to me, ‘Yes, but you have to be careful’,” he said.

Zacharevic, who is currently in Japan, said he will return to JB in spite of the state government’s disapproval of his work.

“Johor Baru has a lot to offer. I think this town really needs more art, not only from me, but young emerging Malaysian artists as well,” he noted.

The artist makes much use of 3D materials in his murals. Many of his iconic pieces feature children and happiness, as displayed along Armenian Street in George Town, Penang

  1. #1 by Winston on Monday, 11 November 2013 - 9:57 pm

    The inconvenient truth?

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Monday, 11 November 2013 - 10:15 pm

    “painted at inappropriate places”? “tarnished the city image”? “advise to use his talent in the right way”???


    Are we back in the 1970s where mediocre talent lucky enough to get an education and in position of power spout corny liners because it hurts their brain to really have to think and be truly relevant and show real talent?

    • #3 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 - 9:55 pm

      May be a written permission is better and with conditions like what to draw, how much is too much, what is acceptable; there are many graffiti in KL itself and in public places which is government places like the cement wall of a stream; you have to take care of your property instead of letting the property be used without your permission or vandalised. May be the same artist can change his mural; a bit here, a bit there to make whoever sees that it is okay

  3. #4 by quigonbond on Monday, 11 November 2013 - 11:58 pm

    Just my personal opinion. It’s nice art work. But in a crime infested city, I’m wondering if such a mural actual helps or hurt.

    The state authority’s tact on this issue is of course all wrong, typical of UMNO style. They should have admitted that crime is a problem which they are continuing to help PDRM to solve, but they respectfully view that having the mural does not help lower crime rate, but others including the artist may have different opinion. They are also happy to let the artist paint at some place more appropriate – perhaps to showcase his talent – maybe call that a walk down “suspense lane” or something which can be turned into a tourist attraction (although, I doubt that the artist will then want to paint there). Now that would have scored some brownie points.

  4. #5 by undertaker888 on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 - 7:26 am

    Sometimes you can’t wait for these endangered species to give their excuses. Typical no brain excuses. If Jay Leno is out of jokes, he doesn’t need to look far. There’s aplenty in bolehland.

  5. #6 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 - 9:15 am

    F.U. umno if you remove the murals!

  6. #7 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 - 9:36 am

    Murals also can cause harm image one meh ? What a stupid joke to either cause laugh or cry. What else to say man ? Siau liau la….

  7. #8 by boh-liao on Thursday, 14 November 2013 - 4:11 am

    D one carrying d branded handbag resembles a big fat lady in 1M’sia, although big fat diamond rings not drawn 2 d fury of d owner (remember, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned)
    So d MSiA K9 must bark first 2 protect its bosses n 2 score some Brownie points mah

You must be logged in to post a comment.