BEFORE AND AFTER
The Laughing Buddha is gone.
The loss of this mural is emblematic of a greater wrong being done to the community of Venice.
People move here because we have a rich street culture, infused with creativity and bubbling with anarchistic energy. Venice was once home to a cultural revolution, dog town, street performers and famous the world over for it's unique artistic inspiration. We had live jazz, amazing chalk art on Abbot Kinney, nude poetry readings at a local coffee shop, bikers and surfers side by side... and artists.
The artists made this community – they defined it with their murals, their clothes, their music. People were attracted to their world and wanted to feel a part of the rare, incandescent creative climate – they moved here in droves hoping it would rub off on them.
Many of the newly transplanted "investors" were not comfortable living with the slightly unpolished and unpredictable nature of Venice and decided to change it into something more palatable and less discomforting. In the process, they impacted the visual culture of the city. Similar to when an animal goes extinct in an environment and that ecosystem is changed forever - changing the landscape and not encouraging our urban artists is forever changing our "artistic ecosystem."
We are becoming beige - witnessed by the "after" photo above. Venice has never been beige!
Other cities hold their street art in high esteem – London, Paris, Buenos Aires, San Paolo to name a few. The art can exist side by side with great buildings of other eras. The streets are a fertile ground to grow the next generation of artists and history has shown that many make the jump from street to museum – Toulouse Lautrec or Banksy, just two examples.
Artists are the "cultural caribou" of the world – wandering from site to site – creating a community were there was none – and moving on when the environment no longer feeds their needs. Venice was that place but judging by how easily the Buddha was wiped from the world, with the stroke of a beige paintbrush, artists can easily be disrespected and forgotten. Venice is a fragile artistic ecosystem.
I wonder what the world would be like, if someone thought the Sistine Chapel would be cleaner and more modern with a coat of beige paint and they got rid of that busy and outdated ceiling mural?