Controversial graffiti artist – City of Zurich honors sprayer Harald Naegeli with art award – News


  • The city of Zurich’s art prize of CHF 50,000 goes to the artist Harald Naegeli this year.
  • The so-called “Sprayer of Zurich” is an exceptional artistic personality, the Zurich City Council states.
  • Certain older and newer works by the street art pioneer are also included in the city’s art inventory.

Skeleton-like figures that seem to be dancing on concrete walls: during the lockdown, spray shops appeared in various buildings, such as cantonal schools in the city of Zurich, that strongly resembled Naegeli. The canton of Zurich then reported the artist. The Kunsthaus Zurich, which was sprayed with such graffiti, filed a criminal complaint against Naegeli – but later withdrew it.

Not displayed, but appreciated

The city of Zurich government is now honoring the busy sprayer with this year’s art award. Naegeli is an exceptional artistic personality, the Zurich City Council justified the award ceremony in a message. With his graffiti in public space, he had persisted like few a “prevailing, institutionally oriented understanding of art”.

To award the municipal art prize to a sprayer whose works are often created illegally is not a contradiction for the Mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch: “Art never simply means that you abide by all the rules and want to please everyone,” said Mauch. «Art has the task of critically and uncomfortably questioning norms». This is done by Harald Naegeli, who uses his illegal interventions as an artistic tool.

Art never just means that you follow all the rules.

The “Art in Public Space” department also examined how to deal with the new figures on public buildings. She now includes a selection from the seven sprayed works in the city’s art inventory. In addition, six Naegelis figures, which he made in parking garages at the end of the 1970s, are definitely included in the art inventory. Some time ago, the city protected this graffiti with plexiglass, for example.

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