Sunbather, with tags painted over.
Sunbather, with tags painted over.
Photo by Alexandra Martinez

Chicago Taggers Defile Street Artist Daniel Fila's Sunbather Mural

Last Thursday night, street artist Daniel "Krave" Fila's mural overlooking the parking lot at Budget Ace Hardware at 1644 NE Second Ave. was vandalized. 

An indiscernible message, possibly reading, "Grisle, yale, heal," was bombed across the sunbather's torso in white bubble letters. Tears dripped down her face onto the words "bogus" and "free the nipple," disfiguring the work of art.

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It has been 13 years since Fila's callipygian character Erin was defaced by an unknown tagger. The year was 2003: Janet Jackson had just flashed her nipple on live television, and George W. Bush was still president — censorship was to be expected. But since then, the cheeky beauties have become synonymous with Miami's urban art scene. Fila's Sunbathers, popping up on various walls, have been embraced by locals, and one was even featured in Michael Bay's 2013 movie Pain & Gain.

Defiled SunbatherEXPAND
Defiled Sunbather
Courtesy of Daniel Fila

Though Erin was covered because of conservative discomfort, little is known about the reason behind the seemingly random act last week. "Free the nipple" would imply relevance to the political and social campaign to desensitize society from female nipples, making it legal for women to bare their breasts publicly; but in this case, it seems to be simply a sarcastic punch line.

"They were probably in a state of idiocy, thinking it was funny: 'Oh, you should have shown a nipple,'" Fila says. "If they had just written, 'Free the nipple,' then it might have been somewhat cool. But what self-respecting artist could ever deface the work of another artist?"

After doing a quick Instagram search, Fila suggests the taggers are fame-hungry visitors from Chicago trying to capitalize on Miami's vibrant urban art community. 

"They're not in the same mind frame of a normal person; they're on a mission for fame," the artist says. "There are issues on both sides. Out-of-towners are detrimental to our scene, but the fact is you can get great artists coming here and participating here, but when you start disrespecting locals, it’s killing the scene."

Daniel Fila paints over the graffiti.EXPAND
Daniel Fila paints over the graffiti.
Courtesy of Daniel Fila

In the mid-1990s, before artists were being commissioned for billboard-size murals, Fila was a tagger. But since then, Miami's walls have become sought-after canvasses, with dubious rules of conduct.

"It wasn’t like we had these murals everywhere. We would tag over graffiti writers for beef reasons, but it wasn’t over murals," Fila says. "I've been there, just never to that extent."

Fila has since painted over the tagging, leaving only outlines of the graffiti. As Miami's street art continues to gain international prominence, the security of the walls remains in question. 

For instance, when famed UK street artist Banksy took up a residency of sorts in New York City in 2014, some business owners sectioned off the area where he had chosen to create. Some even hired security. It's beneficial to the business and building owners to preserve the integrity of the piece: bringing in new customers while personalizing their storefront. The streets became another hall at the Museum of Modern Art, with hordes of people lining up to catch a glimpse.

Fila doesn't plan to take any legal action against the taggers, but the question remains: How do you protect something that is intended to be accessible by the public?

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