Swiss graffiti artist fined by German court

One of Naegeli's flamingos, sprayed on the wall of a disused petrol station in Düsseldorf Keystone

Harald Naegeli, known as the “Sprayer of Zurich”, has been fined by a German court for damaging properties in Düsseldorf. He had sprayed flamingo shapes onto various buildings, including the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts. 

This content was published on April 2, 2019 - 11:43

Naegeli, 79, was ordered to pay €800 (CHF900) in compensation to the owners of the buildings as well as €500 to a children’s hospice. 

“I wanted to give a work of art rather than money, but in capitalism it’s just the money that counts,” he said after the verdict.

Naegeli had previously rejected the charges and had spoken of a “perversion of justice”. The case had gone to court because he had refused to pay a fine of €600.

Naegeli’s legal situation was made significantly worse by Germany’s 2005 Graffiti Control Law. In the past, material damage had to be detected, so paint on a wall was basically ruled out; now, “change in external appearance” is sufficient for prosecution. 

Repeat offender 

This is not the first time Naegeli has had a brush with the law. As an early proponent of street art, he acquired the “Sprayer of Zurich” nickname in the late 1970s when he began anonymously painting wire-frame figures on buildings in the city.  

Some 1,000 works later, in 1979, he was arrested on charges of defacing public property, which he countered by describing himself as a political activist. He initially fled to Germany, where he was sentenced to prison in absentia, but in 1984 he returned and handed himself in to spend nine months in jail.

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