Should We Repaint Keith Haring’s Melbourne Mural?

Earlier this year the Melbourne City Council inadvertently set the cleaners on a Banksy and now, in the ongoing and slightly uncomfortable relationship between street art and Government, the deterioration of Keith Haring’s last surviving mural in Melbourne is being blamed on the Victorian State Government. Unfortunately for fans of Haring’s iconic mural at the former Collingwood Technical School in Yarra, the wall is now falling apart and decades worth of untreated pollution and weather continue to erode the now barely-there paint.

The 7.5 by 11.5 metre mural was painted back in 1984 with the aid of a cherry picker and some local political activists and depicts Haring’s renowned dancing man figures as well the late artist’s penchant for visual non-sequiturs like a massive caterpillar with a computer head and human brain.

Yarra residents, city officials, the University of Melbourne as well as representatives from the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art have come together to discuss the best way to preserve the mural. But where to start in a conversation that should have occurred decades ago? Well, stabilizing the wall is expected to cost up to $22 000, with $900 a year going towards maintenance and the divisive prospect of repainting the mural is also being debated.

“The mural is a part of Yarra and inner-Melbourne’s cultural and physical landscape – and we want to ensure it stays that way,” Yarra Mayor, Jane Garrett said. It’s also worth a lot of money too. In 2007 in New York City’s TriBeCa district, one of Haring’s interior murals was uncovered and valued at $800,000. His Yarra mural is said to be worth as much as $1 million. Failing any feasible preservation methods for Haring’s mural, it seems like repainting the thing is our only course of action. Or, in which that “prevention is better than cure” adage is proven to be true of things that aren’t terminal illness.