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George Floyd mural could be removed as part of new property development

09:10 19/10/2022

A mural in Brussels that depicts George Floyd could disappear as a result of a new building project planned for the area.

George Floyd was a 46-year-old black man killed by a police officer in the spring of 2020 in the United States, which led to the globalisation of the Black Lives Matter movement against police discrimination and state-sanctioned violence against people of colour.

The mural that features Floyd’s image is located on the corner of Avenue de la Reine and Rue des Palais Outre-Ponts, near the Notre-Dame de Laeken church.

But the corner belongs to the property department of the City of Brussels, a public body that recently decided to launch a real estate project on the site.

The project entails creating five residences with a communal space and shared bicycle parking, as part of the Citroën-Parc Maximilien-Vergote urban renovation contract.

Its construction is likely to hide the mural that was inaugurated in June 2020, a work of street art signed by artist Novadead that depicts George Floyd and two hands holding a rose.

“It's a fresco I'm very attached to,” Delphine Houba (PS), alderwoman for culture for the City of Brussels, told RTBF.

“It was my initiative to launch the mural project. It was important for Brussels to take a stand on cases of victims of discrimination. But now, work will be carried out, houses will be built. The consequence is that the fresco will no longer be visible.”

Houba said that solutions are being sought that would preserve either the mural itself or its message and intent.

One potential solution could be creating a new, similar mural elsewhere, but others point out that when the mural was first created it was done so with a pre-determined lifespan of two years, which is now up.

However important its symbolism, this limited term for the artwork was well-known and clearly communicated. But Houba is nonetheless interested in extending it as a means to reiterate the city’s commitment to the fight against police violence against marginalised communities.

“The very nature of street art is that it is ephemeral,” Houba said.

“The agreement signed with the artist Novadead was for two years. The housing construction work is scheduled for the summer of 2023. So we still have some time to think about a solution and a better option.”

That could mean reproducing the mural on another wall or creating a brand new project with a similar message.

“It must be said that if we don't reproduce the fresco identically, it doesn't mean that we no longer carry the values that the fresco represents,” Houba emphasised.

Novadead, the artist behind the mural, said that while he was sad that the art would vanish, he knew it was only intended to be up for two years.

“I put my heart into it, the subject was very sensitive – that said, I agreed two years ago to create the fresco with full knowledge of the facts,” said Novadead, who added that keeping an artwork in its original location is preferred over recreating it elsewhere.

“When you have a sculpture on a roundabout and the square is redeveloped, we make sure that the sculpture stays in the same place after the construction. It all depends on the importance you give to the work and the artist.

"Ideally, I'm in favour of keeping the work there. I'm also in favour of it being reproduced elsewhere one day. But you have to realise that repainting a new fresco is like making a copy. It's not the same thing.”

The public enquiry into the building project that will see the mural’s removal ends on 27 October, with a consultation commission scheduled for 8 November.

The neighbourhood committee already told La Capitale that it is opposed to the real estate project, primarily for aesthetic reasons.

According to the residents, the property development would spoil the view of the Notre-Dame de Laeken church.

Written by Helen Lyons