A cost of about $1,200 a day, a mural of our fire chief in Sydney’s inner west is getting protection worthy of Da Vinci’s masterpieces.
A cost of about $1,200 a day, a mural of our fire chief in Sydney’s inner west is getting protection worthy of Da Vinci’s masterpieces.

Costly around-the-clock guards for mural

A pair of security guards have been stationed to protect a mural of fire chief Shane Fitzsimmons at a cost of about $1,200 a day, the sort of protection worthy of Da Vinci's masterpieces.

But it's not at the Louvre or New York's MoMA, the guards were installed at humble old Erskineville Railway Station when the mural was vandalised a day after it was unveiled on Graffiti Removal Day.

Security guards watch over a new mural of RFS hero Shane Fitzsimmons at Erskineville train station in Sydney on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Joel Carrett
Security guards watch over a new mural of RFS hero Shane Fitzsimmons at Erskineville train station in Sydney on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Joel Carrett

Vandals tagged it with the words "Mad Aries" and "Mural Removal Day" after it was revealed by NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman on Monday.

Transport for NSW has taken the extraordinary measure of paying two security guards an estimated $1,289 a day to protect the portrait for 24 hours a day.

The security presence is similar to that seen at museums housing some of the world's greatest masterpieces - including the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, The Starry Night in The MoMA and The Scream at the National Museum in Oslo.

The new mural of RFS hero Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
The new mural of RFS hero Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

But despite the top-level security, just three out of 10 people interviewed by The Daily Telegraph knew who the person in the artwork was.

"I don't know who that is … maybe police," one person strolling past said.

"It's Shane Fitzsimmons but the focus should be on honouring him and not on removing graffiti," said another.

A Sydney Trains spokesman would not disclose exactly how much the guards are being paid or how long they will be there for, but did say: "We are disappointed that the tribute to Australian hero Shane Fitzsimmons has been vandalised."

 

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The graffiti was in protest of Mr Speakman's remarks when he unveiled the portrait, saying he would "kill two birds with one stone" because the portrait would reduce the urge to graffiti.

"We know that street art reduces graffiti. We know that if there is an ugly wall, they are just waiting for someone or many people to tag it," he said.

One Nation leader Mark Latham labelled the decision to honour Mr Fitzsimmons with a mural on a day that could make it a target for vandals as "naive," saying lights on the Opera House sails or artwork in a gallery would have been more fitting.

"He (Mr Speakman) has been naive and foolhardy (to do this)," he said. "I'm not surprised other people are calling him Mr Sprayman. He looks like a bit of a fool."

 

The Scream by Edvard Munch in The National Gallery, Oslo in Norway.
The Scream by Edvard Munch in The National Gallery, Oslo in Norway.

But Mr Speakman remained adamant the mural was both a deterrent to graffiti and a worthy nod to Mr Fitzsimmons and his RFS volunteers.

"Our brave RFS volunteers are worthy of recognition," he said.

Even the mural artist, Sid Tapia, was forced to defend the work after graffiti artists lashed out at him, prompting him to declare the mural was not about removing graffiti but "bringing honour" to Mr Fitzsimmons.

Originally published as Costly around-the-clock guards for Fitzsimmon mural


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