Nano 4814 mural censored in Besançon, France

Nano 4814. Photo by Quentin Coussirat.

Last June, during the 5th edition of Bien Urbain (a Public Art Festival in Besançon, France) the Spanish artist NANO 4814 was invited to participate and paint the mural above. To the great surprise of the organization and the artist, the mural was erased in early December, after a decision by the owner of the building. It’s really discouraging… This festival is organized by a non-profit association that just wants to give artists space to express their art in total freedom. Murals cannot be just decorative, as noted by this press release issued by Bien Urbain (here translated into English for convenience):

On December 3rd, we were shocked to see that Néolia proceeded to erase the mural by Spanish artist NANO 4814, painted in June 2015 at 13 Bouloie Street, as part of the Bien Urbain Festival.

At the beginning of last summer, the landlord organization informed us of their desire to remove the mural, after it an unfortunate interpretation of the piece. We immediately proposed a meeting and went there to talk with residents of the neighborhood. We have obviously not met everyone, but no one we came into contact with on site mentioned any wish to cover up the mural. On the contrary, most liked to see the building embellished by art, as is the case of several buildings in the area. Some people we met had questions about the presence of a knife or a dark veil, which could represent a niqab, others saw a ghost, or a Marsupilami wanting to use a knife to cut the thread that surrounds his friends. NANO 4814 saw a scene symbolizing the difficulty of the artistic act and questions about the relationship between his work and the history of art more broadly. Art is always open to interpretation. In September, Néolia, the building’s owner, asked us to clear the wall. However, our role is to allow artists to intervene in the public space, not erase their work without prior discussion. We had heard no news from the company after that, and only found out on December 3rd that the painting was about to be covered, so neither the artist nor our association were notified beforehand.

We regret this unilateral act of artistic censorship and defend the view that exchange and dialogue are always more fruitful than “sweeping things under the rug.” If this artwork had actually caused arguments (which we have not seen), it would have been more interesting to take the opportunity to discuss, exchange, and confront points of view, rather than give in to fear. “Preventive censorship” has never been positive for “living together.”

Nano 4814 mural’s erased. Photo by Chloé Cura.

Photos by Quentin Coussirat and Chloé Cura