Blocked Buddy Franklin Mural From Apparition Media Sparks Debate Over Public Art Depicting Male Sports Stars

Blocked Buddy Franklin Mural From Apparition Media Sparks Debate Over Public Art Depicting Male Sports Stars

A mural of retired Swans AFL legend Lance “Buddy” Franklin has sparked debate from all sides of politics about whether Sydney has too many murals of male sports stars.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has backed a call to prohibit advertising company Apparition Media from painting a mural of the former Sydney Swans star on a privately owned building facing Foveaux Street in Surry Hills on the way to the Sydney Cricket Ground, where Franklin famously appeared in the red and white 172 times between 2014 and 2023.

Artist impression of the Lance Franklin mural which was set to be painted on the wall of 485 South Dowling Street, Surry Hills.

According to a council spokesperson, the mural’s size and location, along with the Swans branding and a “lack of underlying artistic integrity”, meant it was deemed advertising (which is prohibited in the heritage conservation area) and rejected.

Moore said she while she doesn’t have an issue with depicting Swans players in public art, the council has to listen to public feedback and assess murals impartially, in line with state government legislation. “The City has a proud track record of delivering public art and increasing recognition of Indigenous heritage in the public domain, and I would be happy to see a mural on this building, but by an artist, not an advertising company,” Moore said.

Nearby murals of Indigenous footballers Adam Goodes and Greg Inglis are popular, and a tribute to Franklin, a proud Noongar-Wajuk man, has been welcomed by Indigenous leaders.

A nearby mural of former Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes that was also facilitated by Apparition Media. (Credit: Dominic Lorrimer)

Liberal councillor Lyndon Gannon was confused over how the artwork would detract from the heritage value of the area. “The building currently looks like a derelict Soviet shack, next to a barely used pop-up bike lane,” Gannon said.

Labor councillor Linda Scott also supported the mural and was disappointed with the decision not to proceed. “I’m for more public art, not less, and the City should work harder to create more,” she said.

The Swans did not actively commission the Franklin mural but supported its creation. The club said it was disappointed by the outcome. “This mural was simply intended as a tribute to one of the greatest players we have seen,” it said.

Several of the 11 public submissions about the mural raised concerns about the prevalence of male sports stars in street artwork. Multiple submissions complained the mural showed Franklin in an “aggressive” pose. The only supportive submission came from the owner of the property, Alex Perina, (who would not gain financially from the mural). Perina described the artwork as a homage to Franklin and a “much-needed burst of vibrancy and culture into a long-neglected street”.

Apparition has been in hot water recently, having been in court with the City of Sydney over murals, some of which the company allegedly commissioned without council approval. Last week, it was fined $30,000 for a 36.8-metre avocado-themed mural painted in Darlinghurst in 2021 without permission.

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