Wednesday, 30 March 2011

What happened at the Graffiti Wall

Returning home on Thursday evening, I saw the entire length of the Graffiti Wall along ul. Puławska by the Służewiec racetrack had been cordonned off with crowd control barriers. Security personnel stood at either end and along the whole kilometer length of the wall. "Funny," I thought... "I can't recall any rock act of global renown playing at Wyścigi..."

Mentioning this to Moni, who's au fait with what's occurring, I learned that sportswear firm Adidas had paid the racetrack's owner, the state totalisator, to paint over the entire wall, covering graffiti and street art alike with one huge advert.

What happened next is an case study in how to get vast amounts of bad PR - and an object lesson in how to mitigate the disasterous effects of getting it so badly wrong. As soon as word got out what Adidas was intending to do, a Facebook page was set up, on which thousands of practitioners and fans of street art mounted a massive protest. By Saturday, Adidas had thrown in the towel. The damage to the company's reputation among its target group (young, urban, trendy) had been done. About half the wall's length had been painted over in black, ready for advertising that never came. Instead came the recriminations.

Above: Could the ad agency not have predicted this reaction (replete with spelling mistake and mispunctuation)? Further on down the wall, anarchists used the event to critique capitalism. Now, even if Adidas had gone ahead with the huge ad, it would have been defaced to the point of illegibility within one night. Entirely counterproductive, a complete lack of understanding of the street art subculture.

Above: Do you remember how? I trust the previous murals had all been photographed by their creators and are in some digital archive somewhere, accessible at a mouse's click... The upside of the Adidas fiasco is that at a stroke, it created half a kilometer of fresh surface to be covered. And immediately, some striking new images arise, such as the one below.

Below: Meanwhile far away in another part of town, some football hooligans' graffiti - well, no, street art. Graffiti would be a foul oath followed by the name of some football club that it's unfashionable to follow in some small village.

This time last year:

This time two years ago:

This time three years ago:

4 comments:

Kolin said...

Great story. Good for the street artists. I had to get my wife to explain to me what HWD stands for. From what I heard, Adidas is in more hot water for fencing off public property in their publicity effort.

It makes me wonder about a stretch of grafitti wall near me (where Aleja Stanów Zjednoczonych meets Ostrobramska) that has been recently painted over with primer grey. What's the plan for it, I wonder? I'll post whatever pops up.

jel said...

It's famous wall in Warsaw. It was really strage idea to cover it with one huge advert. It would be a kind of profanation. I'm not surprised that young people were angry and they decided to set up a special Facebook page.
V. interesting photos; this third one is lovely.

Chris said...

Michael,

Regarding to the "A pamiętasz jak" graffiti, I can't be 100% sure, but I think it has a second bottom. It's a title of a rap song by TEDE. It goes something like this:

"A pamiętasz jak w '39 / Dnia 1 września roku pamiętnego / Napad na Polske był z kraju sąsiedniego / A najbardziej zawzięli sie na Warszawe / Warszawo, Warszawo tyś jest miasto krwawe"
(Proper translation into English up to you :)

Thought it's worth mentioning.

Ed Buryn said...

I photographed every panel of the graffiti wall in 2008 to document the art as it was then. These images can be seen on my website www.edburyn.com in the form of an ebook entitled Warsaw Wall. Enjoy this document of vanished art history! Feedback welcome...

Ed Buryn