Update: Graffiti Control says it has stripped the whitewash today and that the mural will likely be saved. More after the jump.
A graffiti removal crew accidentally started to paint over a valuable work of art on Fairfax Avenue today.
Workers from Graffiti Control Systems, which is hired by the city, started to whitewash the piece by Saber Retna Os Gemos, Revok, Rime, Norm outside Known Gallery on Fairfax about noon, gallery owner Casey Zoltan tell us.
The crew apparently stopped when the building's owner told them the year-old piece had been put up with permission, Zoltan said.
The incident happened one week before MOCA was set to open an unprecedented show, Art in the Streets, featuring some of the very same artists who saw the piece whitewashed today. We're told planeloads of artists artists from around the world are coming to L.A. just to check out the MOCA event.
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The company contracted by the city to do this (you can call 311 and have any wall within public sight cleaned up, we're told) is Graffiti Control Systems. We talked to sales manager Josh Woods, who seemed sincerely apologetic.
While Zoltan says the building's owner plans to sue, Woods said the company would do what it takes to restore the piece. Photo:
Woods said workers were told by several sources in the neighborhood that the mural was put up illegally and should come down. But after they started to paint over it someone notified them (we're guessing the building's owner) that it was put up with permission.
He said he has already talked to one of the mural's artists:
I told him that we would rectify the situation. It was a mistake. We did not do it maliciously. It turned out to be misinformation. There was no intent whatsoever to destroy a mural. We were informed by people in the neighborhood that it was an illegal mural and was to come down. As soon as we were informed on site that it was there with permission we ceased removal.
He said workers would be back tomorrow in an attempt to remove the layer of paint and restore the mural. If that doesn't work, Woods said the company would pay for art supplies so that the artists could restore it.
Zoltan said the rumor in the L.A. street art world is that the city would be taking down murals all around the Melrose area through the weekend.
Woods denied that, saying that his crew is regularly contracted to remove graffiti, and that the workers would be in the area cleaning up walls through Friday.
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Update: Woods said crews were able to remove the whitewash fairly successfully today. But he adds that the mural will still need to be touched up:
... We were able to remove all of the paint we applied and as we expected some parts of the mural came off but most is intact and looks to be in pretty good shape. And most importantly the overall aesthetic of the mural has been re-established.
He reiterated that Graffiti Control Systems would like to foot the bill for touch-up.
First posted at 4:37 p.m. on Thursday, April 7.