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Controversial Hanksy Street Art Project: Daring or Defiled?

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2200 S. Harvard Blvd. – The site of artist Hanksy’s “Surplus Candy.”

Take one historic but long-vacant mansion, fill every surface with graffiti-style street art, and what do you get?  Plenty of controversy.

This past Saturday, October 10, street artist Hanksy unveiled his latest project, a local instance of his “Surplus Candy” serieswhich covered the entire interior of an historic mansion in the West Adams Heights neighborhood with street-style painting and imagery.  Then he opened the doors to about 2,000 spectators for a party that went late into the night.  And the outcry began.

2218 S. Harvard Blvd.
2218 S. Harvard Blvd.

For background, the house at 2200 S. Harvard Blvd. and the one next door  at 2218 S. Harvard had been empty and on the market for several years (at one time even offered together as a package deal).  2218 (a.k.a. the Beckett Mansion) was sold in January, 2015 and featured this past spring in the “West Adams Heights: Heights of Elegance” Tour by the West Adams Heritage Association, where the new owners reported that they were embarking on a full restoration.

But 2200 remained on the market in a clear state of distress (see the current listing at https://www.redfin.com/CA/Los-Angeles/2200-S-Harvard-Blvd-90018/home/6897957 ).  And then came Hanksy.

According to one local blogger outraged by the project, the artist got a filming permit to use the location, but there was no actual filming, except for the inevitable YouTube videos by both the artist and the throngs of looky-loos.  (A neighbor checking with FilmLA yesterday confirmed a permit was on file to film a “documentary” at the property on Saturday, with a crew of 20 people and subject to “special conditions” that required the activity to cease by 10 p.m.  No special event permits or other current permits for the property are on record with the city.) Neighbors also report that the owners of 2200 live across the street from the property, so likely knew about the project.

Los Angeles Magazine and Hanksy’s You Tube posts note that the Los Angeles installation is the latest in an ongoing series of old-house-based Hanksy projects.  But whether they’re really art – or wanton destruction of historic property and neighborhood nuisances – is in the eye of the beholder. And judging from comments on Hanksy’s Facebook page, there are a lot of people in both camps.

[Author’s editorial statement:  I’m a fan of grand old architecture and its careful preservation…and also of fun, creative street art.  But I’m in the “vandalism” group on this one – the infamy may bring attention to a property in need of saving, but the physical damage (even if slapped over with a quick coat of paint), will only add to the building’s distress and make it even harder to sell and restore. Every extra layer of paint, especially in places that aren’t just flat walls, adds to the time, effort and cost of such a project…and this particular house, according to neighbors, has gone through years of such abuse as a frequent filming location, with none of the considerable income put back into restoring or repairing the property.  (Each use has simply degraded the property further.)  And then there’s the whole issue of staging an unpermitted, 2,000-person (!) event, at night, in a residential neighborhood…which pretty clearly disregards and disrespects the local community in a major way.

So was this daring art and a “cool” event…or an architectural horror show?

Does it make any difference that it was a somewhat well-known artist?  Does it make any difference that the house had been sitting vacant for many years?  Would it make a difference if the owner went on record supporting the project? Would it be different if the house were in another more or less affluent neighborhood? How would you feel if this happened on your block? And, finally, what are or aren’t legitimate canvases for “street” art?

Consider these and other images, and let us know how you feel in the comments below.]

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Event photo courtesy of Sandi Hemmerlein, AvoidingRegret.com

 

 

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Event photo courtesy of Sandi Hemmerlein, AvoidingRegret.com

 

 

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Event photo courtesy of Sandi Hemmerlein, AvoidingRegret.com

 

 

2200harvard03
Event photo courtesy of Sandi Hemmerlein, AvoidingRegret.com

 

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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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2 COMMENTS

    • Daring bringing life and awareness to a forgotten neighborhood. Have you seen the house lately it sold and is in the process of a massive renovation it looks beautiful

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