France

Far-right French mayor paints public sculpture blue

The fountain in Hayange, eastern France
The fountain in Hayange, eastern France AFP

A French mayor belonging to the far-right Front National (FN) has had a sculpture in the centre of his town painted blue without even telling the artist, who is going to sue for violation of his work and values.

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Fabien Engelman, the mayor of Hayange in eastern France, says he does not know what all the fuss is about after artist Alain Mila threatened to sue the local council and Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti

denounced a “manifest violation” of intellectual property rights.

The work, a fountain made of metal and stone, was commissioned from Mila, who lived locally at the time, in 2001 by the then-Socialist-run local council.

But it was not to taste of the new mayor, a member of Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National.

He says “it’s a struggle to call it art”.

“We have a town that’s rather lugubrious, grim and we wanted to brighten it up,” he told the AFP news agency. “We painted the bottom swimming-pool blue and the rest turquoise. It wasn’t at all to harm the fountain.”

Unsurprisingly, Mila disagrees.

He has moved out of the area and says he heard that his work had been altered thanks to an anonymous phone call and he didn’t believe it until a friend confirmed the news.

“The council hadn’t told me,” he told AFP. “And when I called them there was no explanation.”

The artist, who finds the blue used suspiciously close to the colour of the FN’s logo, is taking legal action, calling the action a “violation of all my work and values”.

A statement from Filippetti declared the act a “blatant breach of the law, of intellectual property rights and of heritage protection”.

Engelman’s response to the row is to offer to sell the work, which cost 9,000 euros, back to the artist.

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