Oscar Wilde’s graffiti-daubed grave gets a makeover

I saw a news item during the week and it’san appropriate follow-up to my posts on graffiti last month (one and two). One of the pictures in the second photoessay was a photo of the grave of famous Irish writer and wit, Oscar Wilde, in Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris
PLC is the final resting place of many aluminary and allegedly the most visited graveyard in the world. It’s a rathermacabre tourist destination but very interesting. Most graves I’ve seen aresombre but Wilde’s grave—a suitably flamboyant Egyptian looking sculpture—wasalmost completely covered in graffiti. There were quotes, messages, quips,initials, lipstick kisses. They were mostly daubed in red and occasionallyobscene. I was torn. I like graffiti but when it comes to graves, it’s best said with flowers I reckon. See what I mean below…

Guess which are the genuine quotes…
I’m glad I got to see it before the makeover but it typifies the basic conundrum ofgraffiti. Graffiti is art-ful or art-less depending on a personal opinion. One comment I got on the graffiti essays was from legendary local blogger, Bock the Robber, and it explained how his friend’s freshly painted wall had been the victim of graffiti. He asked should his friend be happy at the art or annoyed that he’ll have to repaint his wall! Fair point and touché! Theopinion of the Parisian authorities is that the grave’s integrity should bepreserved. Also, the chemicals in the lipstick etc are actually eroding thestone. That headstone is relatively new, replacing the original in the eighties after it was damaged. It was last renovated in the90s. According to an article by Reuters, “decades of graffiti had promptedWilde’s descendants to secure a historical monument listing for the tombstone,in the hopes that it would discourage vandalism.The graffiti stopped but then the kissing started”.
Jim Morrison’s grave
The authorities have cleaned it and put upglass around it. That’s in keeping with Doors frontman, Jim Morrison’s grave, which is cordoned off to prevent graffiti etc. My friend asked a security guard why Wilde’s grave wasn’t blocked off and she just shrugged her shoulders in that nonchalant way French people do!
The grave is “no stranger to controversy”, like the man himself who was put on trial for being gay, had to leave the UK and passed away destitute in the City of Lights. Whenthe tomb’s original crowning sculpture of an angel in flight was made in theearly 1900s and transported to Paris, officials at the cemetery “immediately covered it up witha tarp to hide the angel’s genitalia from public view”.
You would think maybe Oscar Wilde, wholoved to raise eyebrows, would enjoy having the most scandalous grave in theplace but how can we be sure? The actor, Rupert Everett, who spoke at the grandre-opening said: “I think he’d be thrilledthat he was still attracting so much attention. I don’t think he would like graffitivery much because he loved perfect clothes, perfect houses. I think he’d like his statue to be clean andbeautiful.”

Graffiti can be great when executed well, in anappropriate place and time but sometimes, things are just better “clean andbeautiful”. Opinions welcome as always.

The newly cleaned tomb

Graffiti Photo Essay: Part 2

I’ll start with examples in Limerick…

This was taken in late 2009 in a vacant lot in the Dock Road literally covered in graffiti. The next few photos were either taken of the inside walls or the external walls. I presume the lot is still there but the graffiti might have changed since!

Munster and Ireland stars, Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara. This was done by All Out (www.alloutdesign.net); you can hire them to do murals and there are several examples around Limerick. The taxi rank in Davis Street has a few more Munster players on its walls etc.
This photo and the one below were also taken in 2009 at the skate park down in Mount Kennett, by the river. The building is Riverpoint.
This photo is more recent, March this year. Do chalk drawings even count as graffiti? There were a lot of them around earlier in the year going up Mulgrave Street (there’s one there now; another statistic on a boarded up window across from the fire station. I wonder is some artist/art student doing it as an installation or some person just drawing because they’re bored). Anyway, I took the photo because it stood out in its randomness. The text is “75 million birds die each year in road related accidents”. The wing could be a representation of a chalk outline of a dead bird…maybe!

Taken on the same day in March, down in Mallow Street. It looks like a stencil, done with a roller. I like the vivid colour on the white wall.
This is the bridge behind Ceannt Station in Galway in March 2009. The graffito word is “TRUE”. I just liked it, especially as it was right in the centre of the photo and it was gone the last time I checked. 

And now to some examples abroad…

This psychedelic shot was taken in Amsterdam last summer. I was on a moving boat at the time so it’s not as clear as I wanted.
This is the side of a building in Nantes, France in 2009. It is the birthplace the of subject, Jules Verne, who wrote the book Around the World in 80 Days. I’d say it’s a mural rather than graffiti but I can’t be sure; it’s a little spoiled by rubbish graffiti up the top left. The next few images are also from Nantes, much of it in little alleys and back streets. There are lots of graffiti around France (and Spain). I spent a good few hours on trains while travelling in both places and it’s very prevalent but not always good!
This is really cool and unfortunately some eejit has sprayed a blue tag all over it.
The words mean “Either with or without you”.
Is this defacement or tribute? This is graffiti from the grave of  famous writer, Oscar Wilde, at the most visited graveyard in the world, Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. The black writing is a famous quote of his…the white text is not *lol* Wilde’s grave is literally covered in graffiti. Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, and a load of French dignitaries are also buried here. Morrison’s grave is cordoned off. I think Oscar’s should be too, and maybe sandblasted!
This photo was taken on top of a hill in Sete, in the south of France. It’s on the bottom of a big broadcasting tower. The black stencilling seems to be done over previous colourful tags/lettering. I especially like the woman with the shopping trolley. I’m not sure what the words mean; ‘paroles’ is words or speech; ‘jamais’ is never and ‘pardonner’ is to forgive; ‘rigole’ is channel…and I still can’t speak French after five years ‘learning’ it in school!

Graffiti photo essay: Part 1

I’ve been meaning to do a post about graffiti for a while. The word “graffito” is an archaeological term meaning “an ancient drawing or writing scratched on a wall or other surface”; graffitiis the plural. So the cavemen were the first graffiti artists!
In modern day, ithas come to mean markings, as initials, slogans, or drawings, written, spray-painted, or sketched on a sidewalk, wall of a building or public restroom, or the like”. It still has associations withdeviancy, delinquency and pointless defacement of property. But yet, it isincreasingly regarded as urban art with its legitimacy cemented by artists suchas Banksy—whose work is displayed in galleries and sold at auction, whilesimultaneously being sold in mass produced form as posters and t-shirts etc. Nowwhat was once a subculture (like tattoos) has become mainstream. This blurringthe boundaries between high and low culture is a semiotician’s wet dream.    


I have a love/hate relationship with graffiti. I really likephotographing it and feel that when executed well, it holds its own againstother types of visual art. The good kind tends to be colourful—literally or inits tone; edgy and often humorous or political. The bad kind is ugly and crap! I did a newspaper article before on it and even a local graffitiartist condemned bad quality graffiti and wanton defacement of property. Several councillors agreed that people are entitled to expressthemselves artistically through the medium of graffiti but there is a time anda place. Cllr Kathleen Leddin suggested that there be designated walls/areasfor it, as is the case in other European countries. I’d be in favour of that. As always, I welcome other opinions…but only if you agree with mine 😉 
I was out taking photos in Limerick yesterday morning so I did a small photo essay of the good, the bad and the ugly graffiti. I’ll do another post with graffiti photos taken locally and abroad after this…
The good…
I love these ones, which are made from stencils. Famousgraphic artists who use stencils include the aforementioned, Banksy, and BlekLe Rat. There are a few images dotted around town but there’s Little CatherineStreet has a cluster, particularly in Limerick Lane.The detail in some of these is just excellent and ‘Hatch 22’ was sprayed by some so I presume that is thealias of the group or artist who did them (If anyone knows, I’d like tointerview Limerick’s answer to Banksy).  

The bad and the ugly…
I especially hate when people write really stupid things and,worse, on something that cost lots of money to restore/build. Bad spelling/personalabuse is another common feature with graffiti. These two examples are both inPeople’s Park and I presume drawn by the same idiot, although they do travel inpacks. A few years back, there were quite a few ‘F**k da police’ graffitiaround town. Gardaí don’t have an existential crisis or break down and cry ifthey catch sight of this clever slogan so it’s a total waste of time! One example of this new variation is on the RichardRussell Fountain—beautifully restored by Limerick Civic Trust at an estimatedcost of €100,000. The other is on the new addition to Limerick City Gallery ofArt and the Access II grant given for that refurbishment alone was nearly €1million. Granted, the clean-up cost should be small but it’s the principle ofit!! Also, for once I’d like to go to a toilet in a public place and not haveto read inane rubbish scribbled on the cubicle walls. Something you write whenyou’re peeing/drunk is NEVER profound!
The example below reminds me of the time when the shiny, newgarage door at home was defaced with permanent marker by some local teenagershanging around outside. Some of these bright sparks daubed their full names onit! So my father knocked on one of their doors and the girl’s angry parentsmade her scrub it all off. There’s a moral here…and how many people can therebe christened ‘Shanice McSomething’ around the place?! There is another phenomenon in this example—poor graffiti‘tagging’. Tagging is a graffiti signature so in the same way an artist signs apainting, graffiti artists sign their work. Where’s the amazing mural you ask?There isn’t one; someone just spray-painted their name/something illegible on awall. Warning: Genius at work! Limerick has had itsproblems with this before, local press articles here and here.