Tallinn deletes painting by respected street artist

«Alasti kuningas» enne survepesu.

PHOTO: Katrin Tammik-Arrak

Sunday morning saw a working man apply pressure washer to remove naked emperor picture painted on Tallinn Old Town wall authored by street artist from Tartu, Edward von Lõngus.

According to Katrin Tammik-Arrak, board member to a store T-Särgi Kelder neighbouring the picture, a shop-assistant Ene, in her early shift at the counter, was eyewitness to what transpired.

«An experienced man was washing and wagging his head observing the picture was in three layers of paint, as usually such come off pretty quick,» related Ene, according to whom the washer arrived on the scene at about 10 am. The lady proceeded to say that it took at least an hour to get painting off the wall and visitors in the store had their heads all dizzy from the paint thinner odours. 

As for the artist himself, he learnt of removal of picture by a photo sent to him. Hanging it on his Facebook page, the author signed it as «The emperors in Tallinn must have been pricked in their hearts by the truth».«It has been a highly funny done-style cleansing, leaving a strong impression of the presence of the absence,» assessed the artist.

As admitted by Edward von Lõngus, none of his works has lasted too long in Tallinn. «I would not be surprised if they will one day purge the «Kalevipoeg» off Patarei Prison wall»,» said Mr von Lõngus.

He thinks it makes no sense to take such stuff to heart as this is part of the game. «The work has done its job – from the consciousness of the people, the image can no longer be deleted,» he added.

The city is co-owner of the building where the «Naked Emperor» used to display itself. According to City Centre government PR-adviser Kerttu Rakke, the owner needs to see that the walls of a house are clean. «As the creation of the work «Naked Emperor» had not been coordinated, the T-shirt shop nearby not assuming ownership (though the picture might have been regarded as their ad), and at closer observation the picture created by stencils was not valuable art, it was decided to wash it off,» said Ms Rakke in explanation to decision by the city.

She added the same fate awaits any scribble and graffiti on any wall of any building. «If anybody intends to enrich the city space with a work of art, one must remember that the work must be of high artistic level – graphics, rather than graffiti,» said Ms Rakke.

On top of that, it needs to be coordinated at several levels like city design committee, planning department, cultural goods board, committee for advertisements and city design review.

An exact same «Naked Emperor» is featured in Tartu, near university library. According to Edward von Lõngus, the painting came to be for the Anniversary of the Republic, a few days before the one in Tallinn.

The street artist said other cities might have gotten a copy but he has not the strength for everything. Partly, the work fit into the contact of the elections-mood. «The picture was meant as counter-propaganda to all these pictures on which politicians hide their real self inside suits. In endless amounts, such pictures abound in every shape and size in every post in every city, in every post-box, in every trash-box,» Edward von Lõngus expounded his vision.