Cover image of the review
Installation view of *KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness*, National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne. Photo: © Tom Ross

KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness

15 Feb 2020
20 Sep - 14 Apr 2020

Earlier this week, a group of masked graffiti artists seemed to appropriate the work of Ash Keating—who was commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria to spray the side of the NGV building in 2013—and descended on the CBD to spray the walls of Melbourne’s iconic Hosier Lane using paint filled fire extinguishers. Their work was a performative protest piece that intended to critique the commercialisation of street culture and graffiti art, and in particular to target the signs and symbols of the Culture Kings streetwear store that now controversially occupies Hosier Lane. The anti-commercialist performance piece was quickly labelled “vandalism” throughout virtually all of the mainstream media and is now being thoroughly investigated by the police.

Around the same time, climate activists who have labelled themselves with the tag #BushfireBrandalism somehow got access to the tram-stop advertising booths near the NGV (posing as JCDecaux contractors) and substituted paid advertisements with climate activism posters. In 2018, JCDecaux supported a clever ad campaign on these boards which showcased Mercedes Benz’s partnership with the NGV—complete with functioning windscreen-wiping advertisements that celebrated the then hugely popular NGV Triennial exhibition. This week, however, JCDecaux has indicated it is aware of the “climate vandalism campaign” that’s going on across its advertising network and is reported to also be considering taking the campaign to the police.

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