MADISON McLERIE is a vandal not an artist says Fremantle city council, and her street art—more than 100 small photos glued to buildings—will be removed.
The 19-year-old Bicton art student says her week-old impromptu installation is commentary on a US artist who exploits social media for his own commercial gain.
But, says council spokeswoman Chantelle Blight, staff have decided the work has no “cultural or artistic merit” so it’s to come off “as soon as possible”.
In 2013, the council diluted a ban on graffiti so “unauthorised street art” of merit could be left on a building—unless the owner asked for its removal. The policy is due for review in 2017.
Last Sunday Ms McLerie glued the screenshots of Instagram photos to buildings across the CBD as a message not to “take photos and rehash them as your own”.
The images range from nonsensical images of plants to a close-up frontal of a woman wearing white, transparent underwear.
Ms McLerie created the work after reading that notorious US photographer Richard Prince had sold lifesize Instagram screenshot prints for US$90,000 each (about AU$115,400) at a New York exhibition last month.
Prince had not gained permission from the original photographers nor their models to use or sell the images in his New Portraits collection, but he did so anyway.
“People shouldn’t be able to just take what they want,” Ms McLerie says. “I got permission from 50 of my followers and made them public.” She says the images are free to look at online, “so why not see them for free while walking down the street”.
Her street exhibition was not commissioned and she had no permission from building owners to use their walls: some images were glued onto a heritage facade in Cliff Street occupied by work by internationally acclaimed artist Julian Poon.
Asked whether Ms McLerie’s work is art or graffiti, prominent Fremantle artist Richard Kuhaupt asks, “aren’t they the same thing?”.
“It’s definitely art, but whether it’s well received or not is another matter.”
He mentioned famous Andy Warhol and Banksy and compared their work to that of Ms McLerie.
“It’s provocative and disrupts conversation on the street, and that’s part of a certain genre and type of art that you have to understand to appreciate,” he says.
“This is self-referential—you don’t really know what it’s about without the background knowledge.”
Mr Kuhaupt believes some images detract from Poon’s artwork, but has no problem with risque photos in public spaces.
by EMMIE DOWLING