Professional vandals


Update: Although Rom, the owner of StreetArtNews, has contacted Vandalog and denied his role as ‘manager’, claiming only to be ‘good friends’ with DALeast, this seems unlikely in light of his role in the mural. According to Jimmy C himself, Rom was actually onsite when Jimmy approached DALeast at the wall. When DALeast apologised, he told Jimmy C that he (gesturing to Rom) had organised the wall. Rom then offered his own apologies to Jimmy C, adding that he could get him ‘any wall in the world’ from L.A. to Miami in compensate for the mishap. Sounds like a manager to me, or at least business partner. – PD

The professionalisation of street art is nothing new, so why do some career artists still conceal their commercial strategies behind their anarchist personas? Because it’s cool, right?

Let’s have a look at DALeast‘s recent excursion to London that saw 7 new walls culminate in his first solo exhibition in the British capital. One of those walls went over Jimmy C‘s portrait of Usain Bolt without any consultation. Maybe you’d say, ‘So what? It’s an ephemeral art form, get used to it’. Maybe, but the fact that DALeast went to the trouble to get permission from the building’s owner whilst disregarding Jimmy C does say something about his priorities. What’s more interesting is DALeast’s own excuse.

When Jimmy C found DALeast painting over his mural, the newcomer shrugged an apology down from the scissor lift and explained that his ‘manager’ had organised the wall for him. When RJ in a recent interview with DALeast asked ‘what makes you want to paint a particular wall or not’ the artist simply replied, ‘fate’ which sounds so much cooler than ‘my manager picks my walls for me’. It’s easy to see why DALeast would avoid that part of the picture but it does makes you wonder what a professional street artist really is.

As it turns out, DALeast’s manager is none other than the owner of the popular blog StreetArtNews (edit) the ‘manager’ DALeast was referring to seems to have been Rom from StreetArtNews, who while not technically DALeast’s manager did help to organize some of DALeast’s walls in London and worked with him on the contest/gallery show project he did there. StreetArtNews regularly features DALeast’s work whilst neglecting to mention any conflict of interest. I guess it must be handy to have a manager (edit) business partner who runs a trusted publicity platform but, for those of us who view street art as a DIY counterculture, we’d better get used to questioning where our ‘news’ comes from.

Traditionally, the journey from vandal to professional starts with the artist’s first commissioned piece which leads to bigger and bigger murals and ends with a show for Jeffery Deitch and a line of sneakers. You’d think that this career trajectory might have become boring by now, and let’s hope that it has, but old market strategies will always be replaced by fresh ones that find new ways to feed the bottomless appetite for adolescent rebellion.

With a new spin on an old cliché, artists assume the pose of ‘fuck the system’ until their audience wise up to the contradictory and masturbatory claims of an industry that apparently aims to fuck itself. Moving on, the informed audience is quickly replaced by the next crop of pubescent rebels, all too eager to buy the OBEY cap, adopt Brooklyn slang and congratulate themselves for being authentic.

For anyone that believes street art can be more than the lucrative exploitation of teen angst, it’s important to call bullshit whenever it appears. Put simply, be a capitalist, or, be an anarchist, just don’t tell us you’re both.

Photo by unusualimage

  • NoLions

    it seems some kind of similar clash-of-the-official-authorised-painters took place on the Pedley St wall painted by DalEast. He painted around on the adjacent stub wall hitherto decorated by Artista, within days Artista had restored their place on that stub wall, to be shortly thereafter challenged by the tag “Who owns this wall?”. Where do organised consensual decorators get the notion that their work is going to be preserved and sacred. Hissy prima donnas do not pasionate and rebellious street art make.

  • Hieronymus

    Glad to see someone within the Vandalog world taking note of some of the internal order of things (as it were), and willing to publish thoughts on the subject. *Rhetorical question: Who’s to speak on behalf of the broader culture of who is doing the best work now? There in suggesting particular artists set precedence over others, on public walls, and or inside galleries/museums and in the collections of collectors. ..more to say, but i digress, again.

  • Poesia Transcend

    I dont understand the point being made here. Are you attacking Daleast,
    Rom, or streetartnews. I don’t see the big deal. This wouldn’t even be
    news if it wasnt a portrait being painted over. The pieces at the bottom
    I am sure are rotated regularly, why should a portrait be any
    different. Its not about the ephemeral nature of our artform that
    justifies this, it is the nature of legal walls and the hierarchy that
    has always existed. The rules so to say. A portrait doesn’t have its own
    set of rules, and Daleast painted over another piece of art with a newer
    piece of art. One could argue which is better, but the old rules apply
    if you can burn it then do so. I think Daleast held his own on this
    mural. I am sure daleast wouldn’t mind if this painting was painted over
    by another artist altogether who would be able to abide by the rules.
    If in fact another artist painted over this or the last portrait with
    substandard art then that is a different story. Like I said I dont see
    the outrage over this, this is something all writers live with painting
    legal walls lift or not.

  • I don’t want to speak for Peter, but personally I agree that it’s not a big deal about the portrait being painted over. It had been there for a year, and that’s a long freaking time for a mural by someone coming from a street art or graffiti background. I think you’re right totally right on this point (although I don’t like the mural as much as you).

    I published this article to bring to light the unspoken conflict of interest that seems to exist with StreetArtNews covering DALeast, even though it turns out that what we believed was in the right ballpark but not 100% accurate. For that mistake, I apologize and that’s entirely my fault. I think even with the corrections, the situation is still an uncomfortable one worth highlighting. It just happened to be that this issue came to light through this story of DALeast and Jimmy C. That’s my take at least.

    When Vandalog is working with an artist (particularly when there is money involved), we try to acknowledge it publicly and proudly as soon as it is feasible to do so without ruining any sort of surprise related to the project. As bloggers, Rom and you and I are all in a sometimes tricky spot where we are managing the overlap between this thing that some people perceive as high-level journalism with the projects that actually pay us. My take is that honesty and disclosure, as soon as is feasible, is the best policy.

    For example, I think I actually didn’t do a great job with Sheryo and The Yok. I covered their work extensively for like 6 weeks before they painted a shutter in Little Italy for the mural project I’m working on there, but I don’t think I mentioned our working together until the shutter was completed. In an ideal world, I would have found a way to mention our working together without ruining the surprise of the shutter (even though I don’t get paid for the Little Italy murals). Still, I did clearly mention my involvement when the shutter was blogged about on Vandalog. Rom should have provided at least that level of disclosure about DALeast’s projects in London.

  • Poesia Transcend

    I agree its a tough spot to be in and transparency is always appreciated. I always forgot that people see us as high level journalism maybe your blog more than mine. I am deeply involved and it is harder for me to objective. I read your blog to get views I dont have or see art I wouldn’t feature. I try to keep it consistant what I want to represent even if I love a painting by another artist. But regardless its tough as you mentioned to keep the blog going but want to get more involved on a real level deeper than covering an event or artist.

  • Slow Mo

    Was going to say something and then came across this, couldn’t say it better myself

    Pot, kettle, black. The article was written by Peter Drew who is from Adelaide. James Cochran (Jimmy C) is also from Adelaide and they are old friends. Peter Drew has abused his access to Vandalog and has made RJ look stupid. Legal walls get recycled, get over it. Especially ones as dated as Jimmy C’s.
    Dal wouldn’t give a s**t if his wall got painted over. It has served it’s many purposes and it will live on forever in many different forms. As for SAN “neglecting to mention a conflict of interest”, is this a joke? Is he not aware that SAN produced Dal’s first two prints? Either way, SAN obviously sets a level playing field. Has he not seen the list of artists who SAN document work by? 98% of whom there is no so called “conflict of interest”. That’s if you consider releasing affordable prints as a conflict of interest! Need I go on?

    Read more:

  • MPReed

    Interesting piece of writing, cheers for this.

  • Peter Drew

    DALeast painting over Jimmy C’s mural was just a necessary
    pretext for a wider discussion. The point of this story was to demonstrate the
    discrepancies between a professional street artist’s persona and the hidden,
    strategic realities behind their practice. Judging by the comments on this
    page, most of us are all too aware of the realities of what is, after all, an
    industry. I however, being simply an artist not privy to the internal
    allegiances of blogs, found this story worthy of discussion, given street art’s
    image as a DIY counter-culture where artists are presented as having more
    agency than institutions (blogs included). It stands to reason that we all have
    our allegiances, which is exactly why the qualities of impartiality and
    transparency are so valuable.