No sign-off 

Martin Keil and Henrik Mayer installing the signs around Vincent as part of their 2012 commission.

‘Sad’ artists call for improperly removed works to be returned 

TWO German artists are seeking the return of their public artworks after they were removed in breach of Vincent council’s public art policy. 

In 2012 Vincent council commissioned art duo Reinigungsgesellschaft – Martin Keil and Henrik Mayer – to create a $30,000 city-wide  installation.

They created new street signs for their Urban Storylines project, giving local roads whimsical and aspirational new monikers and hanging them alongside the real street names. 

The signs were removed some time around 2017, but no one at Vincent could find a record of who authorised it or why.

The council’s Public Art Policy states that removed artwork “will be offered back to the artist and/or donor in the first instance”. Most councils have similar policies to avoid falling foul of federal copyright laws which requires artists get a “reasonable opportunity” to remove artwork themselves.

Instead the signs were sent to the council’s depot where they sat rusting for years. 

Eventually Pickle District-based arts group Voxlab found the signs among other bits of metal at the depot, and asked if they could re-use them in a new sculpture. That prompted Vincent council to reach out to Reinigungsgesellschaft for their consent, only to find it was the first the Germans had heard about their removed. 

The signs were rediscovered at Vincent’s storage depot. Photo from Voxlab’s concept art for their Pickle Poles project.

Former councillor Dudley Maier, who had become friends with Keil and Mayer when they visited Perth to install the signs, has been trying to find out why the policy wasn’t followed. After a series of back-and-forth questions, an answer in the most recent council minutes confirmed the policy wasn’t followed.

The Voice contacted RG, who are still hoping to have the signs returned.

In an email, Keil and Mayer wrote: “We are quite sad about the outcome of our Urban Storylines project. Our intention at the time was to install a future agenda in the form of street signs through future themes that move the people of Vincent.

“We were not informed about the signs being taken down. As artists, we are naturally saddened that our work of art is being removed without informing us. 

“We would like the street signs to be returned to us. For us, the Public Art Project in Vincent is of great importance. We look back fondly on the productive time and the exciting encounters with people and initiatives for a sustainable future in Vincent. We will show the street signs in exhibitions in Europe to interest a European audience in Vincent and Perth.”

We put some questions to Vincent about the art policy.

Mayor Emma Cole said the signs were up for five to six years, but were not intended to be permanent. Ms Cole said some people complained they made street signage confusing. 

Voxlab, who have been in touch with RG and don’t want to step on other artists’ toes, are now planning to use other street signs to complete their Pickle Poles project.

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