In March of 2013, a large mural inspired by Lord of the Rings was painted by Italian artist Blu in Bologna. As one takes a closer look at the wall mural created for XM24 at Via Fioravanti 24 in Bologna, you are captivated by the intricate details and imagery. The mural features a mash-up of beloved characters from popular culture, including Stormtroopers and Darth Vader from the Star Wars franchise, and Sauron portrayed as Berlusconi. However, what truly makes this artwork stand out are the human-like trees engaged in a fierce battle over possession of the gold ring, a reference to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
The mural, created by the artist Blu, was specifically commissioned by XM24, an establishment that advocates for peace movements, vegetarianism, and anti-fascism. It is worth noting that this is not the first time that XM24’s façade has been adorned with visually stunning artwork, as the venue has a history of promoting artistic expression. What sets this piece apart is the underlying message of resistance and the looming threat of demolition that it conveys. The mural’s left side depicts images of impending destruction and chaos, with bulldozers looming in the background and ominous, dark clouds gathering overhead. On the right side of the mural, however, one can see XM24’s peaceful resistance, as they defend their ground with watermelons instead of weapons, a powerful symbol of non-violent resistance.
In March of 2016, three years after its creation, Blu and his team were seen taking down a mural that had managed to survive the threat of damage or destruction. The motive behind this decision???
In March 2016, an exhibition titled “Street Art: Banksy & Co. – L’Arte allo Stato Urbano ” was inaugurated in Bologna, Italy. The exhibition was organised by Genus Bononiae, a cultural institution of Fondazione Carisbo, the most prominent and influential bank foundation in the city. The project was spearheaded by Professor Fabio Roversi-Monaco, President of Genus Bononiae, along with a team of street art experts, with the primary objective of “recovering and preserving” the murals to safeguard them from destruction and the ravages of time. In essence, the goal was to relocate the art from the streets of Bologna and make it accessible to private collectors. The exhibition showcased a remarkable collection of street art, including works by the renowned artist Banksy, and offered a unique perspective on the cultural significance of street art.
However, their primary objective of “recovering and preserving” the murals seemed questionable after the recent outlawing of graffiti as vandalism in Bologna that led to the apprehension of a 16-year-old boy for spray painting and the destruction of the street art hotspots where young people gathered. As a result, questions arose regarding the motives of those in power.
The announcement of a desire to preserve street art is viewed with scepticism due to the government’s recent actions. This kind of arrogance has provoked a response from the artist Blu himself, who is featured in the exhibition involuntarily. Blu is presently covering up all the murals he has painted in Bologna over the last two decades by painting them with dreary grey paint.
“Act by subtraction, makes the looting impossible. The exhibit clears the way for the accumulation of street art, all for the benefit of ruthless collectors and merchants of stolen artwork. All this, in a city that on one hand prosecutes teenage writers and invokes street decorum, while on the other celebrates itself as the cradle of street art” Wu Ming blog GIAP explains
Blu is an artist acclaimed for his art pieces that encapsulate truth and authenticity, even if they might be uncomfortable to witness. Recently, all of his striking murals in Bologna, Italy, were painted over, which could appear to be an unfortunate loss. However, what’s noteworthy is that the murals were painted over to prevent them from being sold to a private collector and exploited for monetary gains. By allowing the artist to regain control of his artwork, the public still has the opportunity to admire his masterpieces, albeit not in Bologna anymore.
Photo credit Blu