Montreal's many murals may be inherently ephemeral (for the most part) but they play a permanent role in the city's artistic culture. Beautifying the urban landscape that is Montreal, murals revitalize and make vibrant what was once a simple brick wall.
MURAL Festival, the city's annual street art festival, proves this fact. In only three short years, the festival has led to the creation of about 65 murals in just three years, all of which have combined to reinvent the aesthetic of the Plateau, where the event is primarily held. 20 more are scheduled to be created for the 4th edition of the festival in June.
Certain artworks created at MURAL Festival only last for a year, as specific walls are repainted annually. Other artworks, however, are so adored by Montrealers that MURAL Festival's organizers, MURAL, have chosen to leave such pieces of street art entirely untouched.
But while MURAL understands the public's love for certain artworks and the need to leave them intact, the City of Montreal doesn't quite hold the same regard for the festival's murals. That's at least what a recent construction project approved by the Plateau-Mont-Royal seems to demonstrate.
Right across the street from MURAL Festival's main grounds (the parking lot just below Saint Laurent and Prince Arthur), two murals have adorned the walls of two nearby buildings since the first edition of the event in 2013.
"Barré" by Spanish street artist Escif and "Galaktic Dude" by Montreal's Chris Dyer are the two murals in question, both of will be completely obstructed due to a new condo development currently being constructed. ProposMontreal provides some visual and contextual information here.
Unfortunately, even though Montrealers love both murals (to the point that MURAL decided to leave both untouched for the last two years), nothing can really be done to save either of them from obstruction.
Speaking to MURAL, we learned that the construction project was given the green light by the leaders of the Plateau-Mont-Royal, with the building permit issued last fall. Construction only began this spring, and it's almost a guarantee that the condominium building will block both murals.
MURAL reached out to the construction company building the condo, only to receive a confirmation that the project is in development. Regardless, there's not much anyone can really do, since with a an issued permit the building project is entirely legal, and approved by the borough itself.
That last bit is what's worrying. It's highly likely that the municipal leaders of the Plateau-Mont-Royal were entirely aware both "Barré" and "Galaktic Dude" are adjacent to the building site, and that the new building would obstruct the murals.
Yet, the condo was approved, with no word or notice given to MURAL at all.
Even more troubling is the fact that, out of all Montreal's many murals, only one or two are recognized by the City of Montreal as official works of public art.
The City only recognizes and protects public art when it is produced under an official program or call for offer from the "Bureau d'art public de Montréal," a department within the city's bureaucracy. All the murals created outside of this municipal body are not recognized officially, nor protected, notes MURAL.
This effectively puts almost all other pieces of street art in Montreal at risk and danger of potentially having the same fate as "Barré" and "Galaktic Dude". Since they aren't protected by the city in any way, the murals of Montreal could be visually obstructed, removed, or even torn down without any chance of intervention.
In essence, a majority of murals are not held to the same level of significance as monuments, sculptures, or other like works of public art seen in Montreal, thus jeopardizing their future.
What doesn't seem to be considered is the fact that Montrealers and tourists alike flock to the streets of the city to see these pieces of street art, for MURAL Festival and year-round, simultaneously adding to the city's artistic culture and economy. Unlike other public artworks, murals concretely change the landscape of Montreal for the better.
Despite this, however, nothing much can really be done to save "Barré" and "Galaktic Dude" from obstruction.
But we can ensure future murals don't meet the same fate. If Montrealers voice their concern and opinion, we can work towards having murals become accepted as official public artworks, thus giving murals the respect and recognition they deserve.