Armani vs Chanel

Street artist ZEVS targets locations beyond gigantic billboards and hits the stores with his anti-logo art.

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If you are a street artist and your last targets have included gigantic billboards in town centres, it is likely you will soon be looking for more audacious locations to strike. It is hardly surprising then that French graffiti artist ZEVS (pronounced Zeus), ended up getting into serious trouble. The night before his first solo show at the Statements Art Gallery in Hong Kong, he decided to make his own, special announcement –  he painted a Chanel logo on an Armani boutique. The sign bore his trademark ‘liquidation’ effect that gives it a melting appearance, and acted as foreplay to the show ‘Liquidated Logos’ opening the next day.

He was subsequently arrested by the local authorities, dumped in jail, and had to hand over his passport until his trial last week. The owner of the building demanded HK$6.8mio to clean up the facade; ZEVS described the sum as ‘surrealistic’ and explained he had been careful to use water-based, children’s paint, that he had been able to remove in the past with no difficulty.

While ZEVS was waiting in jail, various online groups were forming to rally against the harsh treatment of his benign action. The issue remains – when a recognised artist makes a name for himself for imaginatively, cheekily using the street as a gigantic canvas, every daring work of art simultaneously earns fan appraisal and legal disapproval: particularly in France, where ZEVS’s work has often been criticised as borderline vandalism.

He began making graffiti in 90s Paris, in the run down 20th arrondissement. Born Aghirre Schwarz, he chose his pseudonym after the ID of a suburb train that almost ran him over. Today his tag can be spotted all over town, and bears a cloud and lightning, referencing Greek mythology’s Zeus. Much of his work has consisted of interfering with advertising posters, such as piercing a whole through the model’s face and pouring red paint over it as if it were blood. His explanation was that it stops people from identifying with unknown figures.

On another occasion, he cut out an entire figure out of a gigantic commercial poster in Berlin and wrote ‘VISUAL KIDNAPPING – PAY NOW!’, demanding a ransom of 500,000€. As he explained, the brand kidnaps the attention of the public towards a commercial aim, and his work reverse the process and kidnaps the model and demands the ransom back. Many of his pieces can be read as an allegorical social critique, and have been compared to socio-political writer Naomi Klein and her famous book ‘No Logo’.

A criticism of the culture of luxury and the glorification of logos can be read in his melting logos pieces and was epitomised in his tag on the Armani boutique in Hong Kong. His trial led to two weeks suspended jail sentence. Despite ZEVS having cleaned the wall, the owner of the building is still demanding 3.4 million HK$ from ZEVS, who he has decided to sue until he obtains the sum.

In the meantime, the artist left the country and says he doubts he will be making street art in Hong Kong again.

Check out his website: www.gzzglz.com, a “liquidated”parody of the Google interface.
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