Russian street art covered with asphalt 'by mistake'

Giant cross artwork Image copyright STENOGRAFFIA/Instagram
Image caption The cross occupies a whopping 6,686 square metres

A piece of street art in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg featuring a large cross has become the talk of town after it was partially covered with asphalt just a few days after it was completed.

Local authorities blamed the incident on "miscommunication", the BBC Russian Service reports.

The artwork - a giant black and red cross incorporating calligraphy quotes by avantgarde Suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich - was created by Russian street artist Pokras Lampas.

It was painted on First Five-Year Plan Square near the Uralmash factory - one of the country's largest producers of heavy machinery. Pokras Lampas says it's the perfect location for a Suprematist display, because the industrial feel of the city fits well with the aesthetics of the early 20th century.

Because of its large scale, the work involved the help of 20 volunteers, and took three days to complete.

'Smeared with tar'

The last thing local residents expected was for a roadworks team to turn up unannounced with heavy machinery to fix a crossing covered by the graffiti.

Seemingly oblivious to its artistic value, the workers proceeded to pour asphalt on it until they were stopped half an hour later after the local authorities were alerted.

They said only 10-15 square metres were affected.

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The incident raised eyebrows precisely because the artwork was commissioned with the approval by the local authorities.

"So weird. Doesn't anyone have a question in their head before throwing asphalt on a drawing?" one Instagram user wrote.

Another person was pained that a "fantastically beautiful work" was "smeared with tar". "What is happening now is a crime against art, culture, and the city," he wrote on Facebook.

"I'm sure it's not a random act of vandalism by the municipal services, but someone's intentional decision: to destroy the work as quickly as possible."

The governor of Sverdlovsk region, Yevgeny Kuyvashev, also reacted with anger. "Yekaterinburg is proud of its street art, and the incident is outrageous," he posted on Instagram.

Artwork to be restored

The mayor's office in Yekaterinburg explained to that the utilities team came to repair the pedestrian crossing - something that had been repeatedly requested by local residents.

But if offered no justification for what happened: "The incident, due to the fault of individual careless workers, is unacceptable", the mayor's office said, adding that the artwork will be restored.

Image copyright Pokras Lampas/Instagram
Image caption There are plans to restore the drawing after it was damaged by roadworks

But not everyone defended the graffiti. The director of the Holiness Museum of the Yekaterinburg Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, Oksana Ivanova, offered her own critique on Facebook.

What was outrageous, she wrote, was that the cross was put on the road in the first place, where people can trample it.

The artist Pokras Lampas, told the BBC Russian service that while he was dismayed by the incident, he won't bear a grudge. "Of course I was surprised. No offence taken, just the realisation that not everyone is open towards contemporary art".

He said he was hoping to be able to restore the project, and was looking into ways to work with the festival's team to make it happen.

Reporting by Amaliya Zatari

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