Celebrated WA street artist Stormie Mills says he is devastated after an original artwork said to be worth $20,000 was painted over by a local council as part of a graffiti crackdown by WA Police.
Mills' painting of a quintessentially quirky character on the wall attached to a Northbridge property owned by his publicist wife Melissa Lekias was painted over this week by the City of Vincent - a major sponsor of the recent PUBLIC street art festival Mills took part in - at the request of police.
Police sought permission from the owner of the neighbouring vacant block because of confusion about the ownership of the wall, which had also attracted multiple graffiti tags.
By late yesterday a message had been painted over the city's paint job: "Who the f... said you could paint this?"
Mills said he was upset by the loss of his art, which he painted years ago and which Ms Lekias said was worth about $20,000.
"I understand that nothing lasts for ever and the idea of painting walls is that, at best, they're ephemeral and they're not always going to be there: something might get painted over it, it might be knocked down or developed or any number of things can happen when you put it out on the street," he said. "But it would be like me going and saying 'I don't like the tyres on your car so I'm just going to change them for bicycle wheels'."
Vincent mayor John Carey said he was "very disappointed" by what appeared to be a mistake by the police.
"There's been a mission-brown wall painted over a Stormie Mills artwork and clearly this is against the philosophy of the City of Vincent council," he said. "I'm very disappointed and I'll be making sure there are checks and balances in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening again."
A police spokesman said WA Police had sought permission from the property owner they believed to be the owner of the wall. He said it was common practice to paint over graffiti in known hotspots.
Mills said he planned to replace the lost work with a painting about "the loss of freedom in mind and body in this city as it grows".
"I'm all for it becoming a bigger city but I think it needs to be a nicer city," he said.