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Harald Naegeli Swiss graffiti artist fined by German court

Naegeli flamingos

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


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. 

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 Lawexternal link. 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.

Harald Naegeli Let us spray: Swiss artist given permission to graffiti church

Controversial artist Harald Naegeli, better known as the 'Sprayer of Zurich’, will get to work on Zurich’s historic Grossmünster.


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