19 March 2019
Shi Zheng painted some of the images on walls at building sites in Shanghai. Photo: BBC
Shi Zheng painted some of the images on walls at building sites in Shanghai. Photo: BBC

Wall art at demolition sites erased before walls come down

A few months ago, colorful, poignant paintings began to appear amid the rubble on at least two building sites in Shanghai, BBC News reported.

They were the work of Chinese artist Shi Zheng and French graffiti artist Julien Malland.

A few days ago, some of the images were published in a local newspaper, and they went viral on the internet.

The wall art was then swiftly painted over or destroyed.

The images appeared to resonate with many members of the public, evoking a sense of sadness for something that’s been lost amid China’s decades-long construction boom, the BBC said.

Children appear frequently in them, lovingly clutching small representations of their homes to their chests, or wearing them, like bags, on their backs.

The publicity attracted dozens of curious visitors and amateur photographers to one of the demolition sites in Shanghai’s Jing’an district.


Citing safety concerns, the district government ordered the paintings to be removed.

The art has now been painted over or chiseled away, sparking a public outcry.

Some internet users ask why, since the images were all soon to be destroyed anyway, they could not have been left a little while longer.

State media has been covering the debate, quoting a member of Shanghai’s People’s Political Consultative Conference, Dai Jianguo, as saying that a bit of careful management — he suggested a requirement that visitors wear hard hats — would have allowed the public to continue to enjoy the images.

“They brought people back to the past and evoked memories about the old houses,” he said.

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Julien Malland also created some murals. Photo: BBC

One image showed a girl with her house on her back. Photo: BBC

It was soon destroyed after people came to admire it. But the wall, slated to be demolished, still stands. Photo: BBC

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