Dunedin, known as a hotbed for music talent and alternative culture, will soon feature an $8350 tribute to Ed Sheeran – and it’s fair to say many local artists aren’t pleased with the new cultural artifact.
The British pop star acknowledged the controversy, telling TVNZ it seemed “not everyone in New Zealand likes me”. He hoped the mural would make someone happy, but he also said he didn’t really care what people thought.
Local musicians – including some responsible for the internationally lauded Dunedin Sound – called the ratepayer-funded Sheeran mural “peculiar”, “unusual” and ironic.
Frontman of seminal Dunedin band The Chills Martin Phillipps, says Enterprise Dunedin’s decision to commission the mural is “unusual” and the money would be better spent promoting local artists.
“Ed, for all his qualities, seems like an unusual choice,” the iconic Dunedin musician said. “I do think something like this is better spent celebrating local arts.
“I’ve got nothing really against Ed,” he continued, adding that he would go to Sheeran’s concert if there was a free ticket available, but he said the mural made Dunedin look like a small town lacking culture.
“We don’t need to be like that,” he said.
The Chills had its own small artwork vandalised last month. The artwork featured on a Chorus network box, but it was vandalised seemingly by another local band .
One person who did have something against Sheeran , TVNZ Breakfast presenter Hayley Holt, was quick to quell the reports she “hated” the pop star.
“I did not say I ‘hate’ Ed Sheeran. He seems like a lovely person,” she said, after promising on television that she would never visit Dunedin again once the mural was up.
However, we *are* currently erecting barricades on both our northern and southern fringes to hold you to your word about not visiting
— Aaron Hawkins (@CrAaronHawkins) March 9, 2018
“I do not want to see a giant, giant mural of Ed Sheeran’s mug. I’m sorry, he does my head in,” she said.
Other music industry heavyweights shared similar sentiments as The Chills’ Phillipps.
Otago University music lecturer and former lead singer of The Verlaines Graeme Downes predicted the art would be shortlived.
“In a decade’s time people will ask ‘who’s that?’ I suppose,” he said.
And the founder of seminal Dunedin label Flying Nun Records, Roger Shepherd reckoned even Sheeran would see the irony in receiving a mural for his work before many local artists were immortalised by street art.
“He is a well known Wellington lover. I guess that Dunedin show generated the impetus to paint him on a wall. I’m pretty sure bands like The Enemy, The Clean, Verlaines and The Chills also played Dunedin shows… so I’m looking forward to seeing them up on the wall,” Shepherd said.
His company was instrumental in taking New Zealand artists, especially those associated with the “Dunedin Sound” global.
“I like the murals in Dunedin a lot and it makes sense for some of them to communicate the important music heritage of the city,” he said.
“I bet Ed simply can’t believe his luck getting in there first. I am absolutely sure he will see the irony in all of this.”
Enterprise Dunedin was running a “paint the town Ed” campaign to coincide with the artist’s upcoming shows at Forsyth Barr stadium.
For the tourism campaign, the ratepayer funded agency was promoting other attractions in the city.
The street art was facilitated by the Dunedin Street Art Trust, which had commissioned more than 40 artworks adorning walls around the city’s CBD.
It was expected the art would be completed in four days. Local artist Tyler Kennedy Stent was painting a wall of the former Bath St nightclub.
Councillor Aaron Hawkins, who chaired Dunedin’s community and culture committee, said he had no issue with Dunedin’s marketing budget being spent on art. “In fact I would actively encourage it,” he said, however the decision had been made by Enterprise Dunedin staff and not councillors.
“I do find this whole thing a bit provincial and embarrassing though,” Hawkins said.
If it weren’t for the obvious commercial motives for the art, Hawkins said very few people would put Sheeran at the front of the queue of artists to be immortalised in the city.
But it was a big event for the city. He conceded: “It would have been more honest to commission a mural of a giant cash register.”
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