Sunday, October 05, 2014

For the Love of Cars Mural

I am beginning to sympathize with the city's handwringing over murals vs. billboards. I've covered a lot of cases where a local business painted the outside of their building, with a theme more or less related to the business, and went through the city's hoops in order to get it approved as "public art". On the other side of the grey area are things that are obviously advertising, but were painted as murals, or at least look like they were. Case in point, the big "For the Love of Cars" kinda-mural on a building at SW 2nd & Stark, which is an ad for the Ron Tonkin chain of car dealerships. The design you see here shows a nature scene full of cars, complete with spark plug butterflies. This was painted in 2009, replacing an earlier design with cherubs wielding car keys instead of bows and arrows. Anything promoting cars in Portland is bound to get some negative reactions, like this rant at that contrasts it with the "America's Bicycle Capital" mural that ran afoul of the city's byzantine sign code. And I get the frustration, but I can't come up a simple and precise dividing line between advertising and art, in order to treat the two differently. I'm not sure how you do that without lots of byzantine rules and special cases..

Unfortunately it's already too late to see this one. Shortly after I took these photos, workers began plastering over it, pasting up a giant generic Land Rover ad in its place. On the bright side, this preserves it for future archeologists as an artifact of the early 21st century, before we ran out of oil and melted the polar caps. I'm sure they'll be fascinated by us.

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