Super-sized street art

WARREN GAMBLE
Last updated 13:00 09/01/2014
Street art
ALDEN WILLIAMS/ Fairfax NZ
SEALING THE DEAL: Belgian street artist ROA at work on the side of the Whitby House yesterday.2

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A super-sized baby seal is taking shape in central Nelson.

It is the first creature in a series by Belgian-based international street artist ROA that will dominate the southern wall of Whitby House on Collingwood St, which houses Prego Mediterranean Foods.

ROA began painting yesterday, and is expected to complete the massive work by Monday.

The publicity-shy artist prefers to let his paintings do the talking, but the baby seal was drawn from his encounter with the Ohau Pt colony, north of Kaikoura, on his way to Nelson this week.

The work brings to spectacular life a campaign launched by Free House co-owner Eelco Boswijk and art collector George Shaw.

Mr Boswijk was spurred to inject some artistic life into the central city after noticing a number of large, blank walls going up on new buildings.

He teamed up with Mr Shaw who had brought ROA and other international artists to Christchurch last month for the Rise street art festival.

The pair launched a crowd funding campaign with a $10,000 target to bring ROA to Nelson.

Mr Boswijk today said about two-thirds of the money had been raised, and they would welcome a "final push" to reach the target.

The project has seen some questioning why a local artist was not approached, but Mr Boswijk said the feedback from passersby yesterday had been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. "A couple of people have come up to me and given me money which was a bit strange, but fantastic," he said.

ROA had not settled on the other creatures that will complete the work, but they were likely to have a marine theme.

Mr Boswijk said it was immensely satisfying to see the project come together so quickly and he thanked all those who had given support.

ROA is based in Belgium but spends much of the year travelling to paint walls, and is regarded as one of the world's premier street artists.

His giant black-and-white paintings of animals, birds and insects are in cities across the world.

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- Nelson

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