Landmarks Commission Hearing 1

Debate over this site for a new painted wall advertisement

Frank Jump over in NYC, USA recently presented the case, on behalf of Colossal Media, for the ‘overwriting’ of an old fading ghost sign with a new Colossal production. ┬áPresumably an application to do so is under consideration and the Landmarks Commission are deciding whether to grant permission. This raises interesting issues with respect to protection. Most interesting I think is whether the survival of the old signs or the techniques used to produce them is more important? Frank rightly cites me in his presentation as being a great admirer of the work that Colossal do and the way this has allowed the signwriting (‘walldogging’ in USA) tradition to continue into the modern era. Their work is exceptional in both design and execution and they and their clients should be commended for their efforts.

The case bears some relation to the recent ruling in London against Clear Channel who wanted to erect a billboard on the site of an old sign, the justification being that it had always served as a site for advertising. The ruling was based on the fact that the old sign couldn’t really be considered advertising since the featured product had ceased to be available for many years. The ruling was therefore not in favour of the old sign but against the erection of a new one. For example, the owners of the building could paint the wall white if they wanted without any problem (as happened in Clapham North). However, the tension between development and preservation exists in both cases. To what extent, if any, should legal measures be taken to protect or preserve signs?

In our recent article Bas Groes and I warn of the dangers of “naive nostalgia” and it is perhaps best to let the signs die their own natural deaths rather than legislate for their benefit. The fact that they have survived thus far suggests that some will continue to do so while others will either fade of their own accord or be consumed with the pace of development as it shifts gradually outwards from city centres. Preservation through photography as Frank Jump in USA, many other across the world and I are doing is a sure way of ensuring that future generations see what went before, whereas the efforts of Colossal Media help to take the craft forwards into new forms.

  • Frank Jump

    >Hey Sam- Hope the New Year is treating your well. Thank you for posting about my "Colossal correspondence & collaboration." Will be posting a new Colossal sign from Red Hook, Brooklyn. The Coca-Cola image was taken in September 1998 and hasn't faded too much since given the ephemeral nature of these urban visual landmarks. What was so interesting was I caught it while there was a Rachel Whitread installation next to it. " The translucent "Water Tower" is a sculpture by Rachel Whiteread. It is a resin cast of the interior of an actual water tower. Duckett & Adler is still visible as is Wintergarden." I was later compared to Whiteread in a "Friends of Ed" publication New Masters of Flash by Mickey Stretton, which was all the more exciting.

    Be well and look forward to all of your postings.