Let us spray: Swiss artist given permission to graffiti church

After waiting more than a decade, controversial Swiss graffiti artist Harald Naegeli has been given the thumbs-up to spray the walls of Zurich’s historic Grossmünster church.  

This content was published on November 29, 2018 - 10:11
Helen James (picture editor),

The proposal by the 78-year-old artist to graffiti the inner walls of the Grossmünster towers has been accepted by both the church administration and the cantonal building authorities. 

After illegally spraying numerous buildings, including churches, in the 1970s, Naegeli decided to apply for a permit to graffiti the Zurich landmark. 

The towers of Grossmünster in the city of Zurich. (Zürich Tourism) Zürich Tourism

Enfant terrible 

In the 1980s he drew support and opposition from intellectuals and the general public alike for his illegal graffiti. After serving a prison sentence in 1984 for illegal defacement of property, he returned to Germany where he had been living before being incarcerated. 

+ The ‘sprayer of Zurich’ – artist or vandal?External link

Naegeli will receive no payment for his latest artistic venture and the Zurich authorities will have the rights to remove the graffiti after four years (with the option of a two-year extension). There are also other regulations involved: the Grossmünster parish stipulated that he uses only black, blue and silver spray paint and that they retain the rights to use the artwork for communication purposes. 

What does Naegeli get out of it? The work, titled “Todestanz” (Dance of Death), is seen as a reconciliation with a city which once punished him for his art. 

Opening evening for the Grossmünster graffiti is scheduled for January 25, 2019. 

Swiss public television, SRF, shows Naegeli in his younger years, using the city as his canvas:

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