The Removal of a ‘Peeping Toms’ Mural in Israel Challenges the Role of Public Art

Artwork at Tel Aviv beach was painted over after outrage over an assault on a teenage girl, sparking discussion about popular culture, politics, art, and gender.

On August 23, 2020, the Tel-Aviv municipal authorities removed an 18-year-old “peeping toms” mural painted by the Israeli artist Rami Meiri. It showed two young men peeking in the window of a ladies’ changing room at the beach.

The ‘Metzitzim’ (Peeping Toms) mural at the Tel-Aviv beach, picture by Udi Steinwell Wikipedia Commons
Mayor of Tel Aviv’s Twitter announcement

Clashing art, aesthetics, culture, gender, and politics

Painting over the mural sparked vigorous public debate. Interestingly, this debate comes just as the Black Lives Matter movement has reignited disputes over the presence and significance of Confederate cultural symbols and monuments in the US and statues of slave traders in public spheres. Removing contentious paintings, statues, and symbols public spaces raises questions about the public presence of art, power dynamics, and control over the public sphere.

What is art’s public role?

A mural is public art. It interacts with its audience in public. This context matters.

Did this mural have to be painted over?

The mural was causing offense, and the Tel-Aviv municipality was right to remove it. However, painting over the mural was not the only option available. The municipality could have removed the mural and placed it in a museum.

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