Graffiti Control Systems illegally removes mural

Just yesterday I noted that our new header image was a famous mural off Fairfax. This photo is from earlier today when a truck from Graffiti Control Systems removed the locked gate from the private property where the mural is located and buffed it. The mural was completely legal and commissioned by the building owner, who can be seen in the photo as well obviously upset that artwork she had on a building she owned had been destroyed. LA Taco did some research and found that Graffiti Control Systems is based in North Hollywood (also on Facebook and yelp) and contracts with the city of LA to remove graffiti – though something is definitely out of the ordinary here unless they are in the habit of buffing anything they see regardless of where it is. You may recall a few years ago a very culturally significant mural of Ed Ruscha was painted over “on accident” and Saber’s Guiness Book of World Record holding LA River piece was wiped without notice.

While there is much ongoing (and forever ongoing) debate about the artistic value of graffiti, the city clearly need to do some work on educating it’s clean up crews on the difference between a tag on a garage door and a legal and commissioned mural. Especially since Los Angeles is so well known for it’s murals which a huge part of the life of it’s residents. Seeing artwork like this destroyed is disgusting. I hope Lynda, the owner of the building this mural used to be on, files a law suit against the city for trespassing and vandalism.

UPDATE: GCS has admitted this was an error and will be paying to have it fixed.

51 Replies to “Graffiti Control Systems illegally removes mural”

  1. Hey Andrew, would you approve of the city buffing the paint off your car because they didn’t like the look of it? Or off your house? Or what if they decided you couldn’t wear certain clothes?

    The above wall was privately owned and privately commissioned. The graffiti removal team had to illegally break and enter an fence and trespass on private property to get to this. Removing it is illegal by any definition, regardless of the “artistic” value of what was removed.

  2. Tragic day for arts in LA but sadly not a huge surprise. Still really curious how this all went down.

    On another note, blogging.la is looking tight! Love the new design… and now it’s part of historic preservation…

  3. This is truly upsetting. What happened to private property rights? I hope she does file claim for vandalism and defacement of private property against the city and the “graffiti” removal crew.

    It wasn’t graffiti, it was urban art and a fine piece indeed.

    Can I donate my garage door to the cause? I’d dare anyone to trespass or make me remove it.

  4. Maybe someone should start painting over all the obnoxious billboards… with a notice:

    “This sign has been deemed offensive to the citizens of Los Angeles, and has therefore been removed by the people.”

  5. This is really messed up. If it turns out that GCS did in fact break a lock to get onto the property, someone needs to go to jail. At the very least there seems to be issues of trespassing and willful destruction of property.

  6. Minor successes have happened even in the past few hours. Their Yelp rating is down to 1 star, and they’ve removed their facebook page. At least half of the first page search results are articles lambasting them for the unprofessional, irresponsible and duplicitous work.

    My question, as I wrote in our article (thanks LATaco for some content) is: When are we going to organize ourselves effectively in order to preemptively combat this affront?

    http://www.fatcap.com/article/negligent-graffiti-control.html

  7. Seems really odd but not surprising that they’d go this far. Is it a contracted service that gets paid per removal job? May have been some financial incentive or perhaps a disgruntled neighbor calling in.

    There’s a Thai place on Washington in Venice Beach that just completed an entire parking lot wall in graffiti art. Wonder if such activity on private property brings complaints.

  8. Seriously you guys need to relax. An honest mistake that GCS is taking responsibility for fixing. That was not a legal mural anyway, just because the owner may have given consent. That’s just how it goes. Nobody wants that in their neighborhood. Take a bong hit and chill out.

  9. Hey Will… If you want to bake it instead of smoke it that’s fine by me. Either way you need to get off your “high” horse. Anybody can throw shit on a wall and call it art. Does that mean the rest of the community has to deal with the stink?

    1. Just because you don’t consider it art doesn’t mean that others don’t consider it art. There are plenty of pieces of art, mostly in modern art museums, that I think are utter pieces of crap. Does that mean these pieces shouldn’t be on display just because I don’t think they are artistic?

    2. What most impressed me most by Realist’s initial comment was the incredible insider insight obtained into not only the break-and-enter job being a so-called “honest mistake” by the company involved, but also having in-depth knowledge that the community in its generalized entirety within in the vicinity of this mural was deadset against it. There’s an omnipotence there that’s simply amazing.

      What’s equally amazing in its entire absence of irony is the suggestion to get off my “high” horse. I’d be more inclined to accept that as good advice if Realist weren’t so entirely unaware of the stoned pony he or she’s straddling.

      1. Will
        No more insider insight than you could have had if you actually went to the site and talk to the crews about what happened. But it’s probably a lot easier just to sit back and throw out a few bombs to try to stir up the issue.

        1. Such an irony deficiency really warrants some sort of dietary supplement, Realist. First from your private Clydesdale you demand I get off my high horse, and next you come in here speaking from serious experience about throwing out a few bombs to stir up the issue.

          Richest of all, you come here, demand we “relax and take a bong hit” like some wild-and-crazy refugee from Clich├ękistan, while simultaneously excusing the company and slanting neighbors’ opinion of the destroyed work — a picture of which just so happens to hang freshly from this blog’s header… and to most might be what they call a Key Indicator that the reception to your condescension and derision might not be a warm one.

          1. Whoa Will
            Such intellect. I certainly can not compete with anyone who uses such fancy words as Clich├ękistan, and even knows how to put that little mark over the e. Your awesome intelligence and complete knowledge of what everyone in the neighborhood enjoys shows that you are truly superior in all ways to the rest of us. Certainly it is people like you that make Los Angeles such a wonderful place to live for the rest of us.

  10. “the community” – you mean like the building owners and other stores and residents in the area? In that case you are talking about the people who paid for and commissioned this mural over a year ago. “The community” loved this, which is why when “the community” saw it being buffed they immediately called the building owner who drover over immediately to put a stop to the vandalism.

    But that isn’t the issue at hand, even if “the community” hated it, it’s privately owned work on private property that GCS had to break and enter and trespass to get access too. Legally, it would be the same thing as them breaking into your house and pulling down whatever you have hanging on your walls because when they were driving by the caught a glimpse through a window and didn’t think it was art.

  11. Grant: The difference is that if there is a piece of shit art hanging in a gallery, I don’t have to go in and look at it.

    Sean: Lot of people in the community didn’t like it. Lot of them did. GCS made a mistake by going in to remove the “art”, but the fact is that if anyone would have just called the Department of Building and Safety (as happened in Valley Village this week) we quickly would have found out that this was not a legal mural and the owner would have been forced to pay for the remvoal themselves. GCS actually did them a favor. The porcess may not have been followed correctly, but the fact is that if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

    1. Are you insane? Honestly? I was 100% legal and on private property. It was commissioned. It had been there for over a year. It’s not street facing, it faces a privately owned lot. There is no city regulation that applies to this – it’s private property. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s art or not, it was completely legal.

      And cutting a lock and removing a gate to gain access to the property is not a mistake – it’s breaking and entering. This isn’t the case of a store owner who had something painted on their roll up door getting buffed while they are closed on accident. GCS had to go to considerable trouble to get to this work and they (and the city) will have to face the concequences of that. Even if you didn’t like it.

    2. This is a private property issue, not an art opinion issue. Cutting a lock and entering a private lot to deface a wall is an outrageous and completely illegal act. Graffiti Control Systems should lose their contract with the city, be prosecuted for criminal trespass, and pay damages and whatever amount it takes to restore the piece. I don’t care what kind of contract you have with a city, you are not allowed to trespass on private property and CUT A LOCK in order to do so. Period.

    1. Hey Realist-
      Knowing something about one situation does not make you the expert in all situations. Did you do any research yourself other than read an article about some other mural that was deemed illegal across town and assume it must be the same thing? Because I did, and what I learned was these two situations you are trying to paint as the same couldn’t be more different.

      First off in your cited Valley Village situation the mural was facing an alley. An alley is city property. Did you know that a wall that faces a public street, sidewalk or alley had a different legal status than a wall that faces private property? Again, the wall in question was on private property and directly in front of it? More private property. An entire lot of private property, surrounded by a fence securing said private property. That is an entirely different situation than a fence facing a public alley. Again, there is not a city ordinance that applies to a privately owned wall on private property facing private property. The connection you are trying to draw doesn’t exist.

      And in the case you noted warnings and citations were issued. In this, nothing. Why? Because it was legal. Which is the same reason that when the owner of the property arrived the GCS team didn’t produce a work order or anything to back them up legally, instead they left immediately. If what GCS did was legal they wouldn’t be dodging questions about it – I called them and when asked them about this for the story they hung up on me. Does that sound like something above level? They cut a lock to get onto the property, there is no way that can be considered legal on any circumstances without mountains of paperwork ahead of it.

      But regardless, you need to get your story straight – was this an “honest mistake” or totally justified removal of an illegal mural. You’ve made both claims, though they don’t seem to jive which each other, and all the FACTS I have don’t seem to back up either. So, care to produce something other than your misplaced opinion?

  12. I agree with the comment about potholes. Maybe pothole repair should be outsourced to roving gangs of overzealous guerrilla pothole fillers.

  13. Some updates: GCS has admitted that this was a mistake: http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/04/graffiti_art_fairfax_wall_melr.php

    LA Taco provides information about GCS and how they operate: http://www.lataco.com/taco/who-is-graffiti-control-systems

    And GCS have been out today trying to remove the buff paint:
    http://melroseandfairfax.blogspot.com/2011/04/buffman-buffing-himself-pt-12.html

    GCS fucked up…BIG TIME. And they know it. They know that they’re likely facing lawsuit, and at the very least some very bad publicity, and some scrutiny of their city contract.

  14. Sean
    If the “artwork” in question is visible from the public right-of-way, then the same laws apply that would apply to the alley. There is no difference whether there is a private lot there or not. Just because a contractor messes up the process and paints out graffiti illegally, doesn’t make the graffiti itself legal. Sorry to disappoint you, but your definitive word is still not definitive. Guess that’s what makes the world go round.

    1. That’s not what the city seems to think. I called them and asked. A wall facing a lot is different than a wall facing a street. But the events are playing out backing up everything I’ve said and suggested, and nothing you have proposed, so all is right with the world. Thanks for playing though!

  15. b.la: please keep the wall up on your mast and let’s find out if the “removal” company is owned by a city official and/or employee.

  16. Sean
    Not sure if I actually proposed anything, but as long as everyone is happy that’s the main thing, right? Perhaps you’re right. Guess we’d find out if anyone in the community actually makes a call to the Department of Building and Safety to complain about the wall. Since it does not directly affect me as I am far enough out of the area that the repercussions of leaving it there don’t affect me directly, it won’t be my battle. Those who have to look at it everyday though, should know that there is a remedy available.

    1. Realist – That beautiful mural is part of my daily commute to work, it’s a joy to look at it everyday

    2. “Those who have to look at it everyday”

      Your bias is showing.

      Again, the mural has existed for over a year, and the people who *have* to look at it include the artists who actually made it, the people who paid to have it there, a neighborhood that enjoys having what they consider lovely art on the wall rather than a blank wall – who are the same people who called the building owner to let her know when it was being defaced, and the same people who had the foresight to take photos of the criminals who are at fault.

      Again, you might not like it, you might not think it’s art – but that doesn’t mean the people who live with it agree with you or that it’s illegal. All evidence suggests it’s legal and the people in the neighborhood who see it on a regular basis are happy it’s there.

  17. I just found this artical and would like to say as a Fairfax district resident of more than 20 years it was a shame to see such a beautiful painting covered up. I hope someone can repair it.

  18. Barring a biased judge, this is an open and shut legal suit.

    This is not graffiti. “Graffiti,” by definition, is illegal. Regardless of sharing the aesthetics of graffiti, the moment this was commissioned on private property, it became a mural, and is now classified the same way a private piece of art is.

    The artists who painted this have sold pieces for large sums of money, establishing a determinable value for this wall, and I expect the owner of the building to receive a large sum of money should she decide to sue (both for that of the commission cost, and the determined value of the art work).

    The only hang up would lie in if the mural complies with any city codes for that area. Even so, most cities are required to serve notice and allow the owner time to paint over their own property before doing it themselves, and especially before forcing entry.

  19. For all you fools that think this is “art”, and such a positive aspect to a community-check out the following link. That’s the whole point of all this. Taggers/graffiti writers/artists have no respect for community concerns or property owners. Create an exhibition of graffiti “art” and the neighborhood ends up with a bunch of tagging. Time for you all to get real and admit that the problem comes from the graffiti taggers and not the abatement crews.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/04/mocas-art-in-the-streets-exhibition-brings-out-graffit-vadalism.html

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