Malaysian Authorities Not Wowed by Crime-Themed Lego Mural
  Resource:wsj   2013-11-20 10:54:03  

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—It seems like everyone, from Penang Island in Malaysia’s north all the way down to southern neighbor Singapore is head over heels for Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic’s evocative street art.

Everyone, that is, but the authorities in Johor Baru, the border city across from wealthy Singapore known for its high crime rate and Lego-themed family theme park.

On Thursday, several members of the Johor Baru city council arrived at the busy city intersection where his latest mural is located and painted over it.

The city council’s spokesman, Abdul Aziz Ithnin, was quoted in a local English-language newspaper as saying that the mural was done without prior permission and amounts to graffiti.

Officials at the council couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Zacharevic’s murals – painted big and bold on the sides of public buildings and walls of shophouses are redolent of a childhood spent playing outdoors. In Penang, where the artist is based, one mural portrays two siblings laughing and riding real bicycles that protrude from the wall; another that runs the entire height of a two-storey shophouse shows a trishaw driver resting in his vehicle.

But the artist’s latest work in Johor Baru is less innocent – depicting a knife-wielding masked Lego man waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting Lego woman carrying a Chanel purse.

While it has not gone down well with local officials, however, many residents have shown their support for Mr. Zacharevic’s street art.

In the days since the mural was purged, the new white wall has been covered with paper cut-outs of the two exact Lego characters depicting the mugging. Local newspapers reported that the cut-outs have also appeared at several other locations in the area.

The tongue-in-cheek street art has also made waves on social media since last Thursday, generating some debate about its meaning and whether it related to a perceived rise in crime in the city.

Other social media users have created their own softer versions of the image, replacing the mugger’s knife with flowers in one instance.

Responding to the removal of his mural by council members, Mr. Zacharevic urged his supporters not to “get upset,” hinting that the Lego mural would not be his last.

“Please continue to make Malaysia as awesome as it is,” he wrote on Facebook. “I will see you again.”

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