Harald Naegeli


Harald Naegeli

Harald Naegeli (born December 4, 1939) is a Swiss artist best known as the "Sprayer of Zurich" after the graffiti he sprayed in the late 1970s onto walls and buildings in Zürich, Switzerland.

The "Sprayer of Zürich"

Naegeli has had a classic education as an artist, having studied at the "Kunstgewerbeschule" of Zürich and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.Essl, K.: " [http://www.essl.at/bibliogr/naegeli.html Partikelbewegungen im Raum] ", 1992. In German. URL last accessed February 23 2006.] Naegeli's graffiti appeared beginning in September 1977 on the walls of Zürich. He used black spray-paint to paint wireframe figures on the walls of public and private buildings alike. He painted his graffiti anonymously at night, in places all over the city. The figures provoked a heated controversy in Zürich and indeed in Switzerland in general. Intellectuals and artists recognized the artistic value of Naegeli's works early on, but the general public and the Swiss authorities saw it only as an illegal and malicious defacement of property. Naegeli himself later said that he saw himself as a political artist and his graffiti were a political statement against the increasing anonymity in the city.Maessen, H.; Igüz, Dr.: " [http://www.rootz.net/bild046.htm Graffiti der Achtziger Jahre in Köln, Teil 1: Harald Naegeli] ", 1998. Web site in German, with many images of the "Kölner Totentanz". URL last accessed February 24 2006.] The authorities issued an arrest warrant for him, but he was apprehended only in June 1979 when he returned to one of his paintings to collect his glasses that he had forgotten there. Until then, he had painted some 900 graffiti in Zürich. He evaded the trial by fleeing to Germany, yet was sentenced "in absentia" to nine months in jail and a fine of CHF 206,000. His lawyers appealed, but the Supreme Court of Switzerland confirmed the sentence in November 1981. Since Naegeli had left the country, the authorities of Zürich issued an international arrest warrant for him. 72 Swiss artists signed a petition demanding that this arrest warrant be retracted, to no avail.

In Germany, his work was more appreciated as art, and Naegeli remained there for the next few years and became acquainted with Joseph Beuys. He continued to spray his characteristic wireframe graffiti in Cologne and Düsseldorf, and although they were not unanimously welcomed there either they caused much less discussion than they had in Zürich. In Cologne, he produced in 1980/81 a cycle of about 600 graffiti that became known as the "Kölner Totentanz"; most of these works were removed already the day after their creation by the city cleaning department. The mayor of Osnabrück even invited Naegeli to spray in his city, but Naegeli declined the offer. Adolf Muschg, an eminent Swiss writer and later professor for literature at the ETH in Zürich and one of the 72 artists who had signed the petition, commented later: "He doesn't work on commission. He does not sell out his rage".Radio DRS: " [http://www.g26.ch/texte_graffiti_04.html Zwischen "recht" und "rechtens". Straffreiheit für den Sprayer?] ", a radio debate between Adolf Muschg and Marcel Bertschi, prosecutor general of Zürich, broadcast in the early 1980s. In German. URL last accessed February 23 2006.] On August 27, 1983, Naegeli was arrested at Puttgarden on Fehmarn when he tried to cross over to Denmark, but was released again on bail. Germany was reluctant to grant the Swiss the extradition, but finally agreed to evict Naegeli. On April 29, 1984, Naegeli turned himself in to the Swiss police at the border crossing in Lörrach and subsequently served his jail sentence. Once released, he returned to Düsseldorf in Germany.

In Germany

Naegeli largely disappeared from the attention of the public in the late 1980s. He began focussing on drawings on paper and etchings. He calls his new works "Partikelzeichnungen"; they are composed of thousands of minuscule dots and small lines. This slow process is in stark contrast to his earlier graffiti that, by their very nature, were a very spontaneous means of expression.

Naegeli became a well-respected artist in Germany. In 1997, he produced a graffito for the University of Tübingen, and in 1998, he was called as a professor at the Thomas-Morus-Academy in Cologne. He has donated his "Partikelzeichnungen" to the Institute of Art History at the University of Tübingen.University of Tübingen: " [http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/uni/akg/index02/expo05-1.html Harald Naegeli] ", February 11 2003. URL last accessed February 23 2006.]

Rehabilitation

Even the authorities of Zürich at long last recognized Naegeli's graffiti as art. The city restored one of the very few of his surviving graffiti in Zürich: "Undine" was created in 1978 on a building of the University of Zürich, located at Schönberggasse 9 (coord|47|22|23.4|N|8|32|56.5|E|). When the building was renovated from 1995 to 2004, the graffito was considered "valuable art" by the building department and covered to protect it for the duration of the work.Staatskanzlei Zürich: " [http://www.sk.zh.ch/internet/sk/de/mm/mm_2004_quartal_3/213_Naegeli.html Universität Zürich, Deutsches Seminar: Restauration eines Wandbildes von Harald Naegeli] ", September 22 2004. Eulogy on Naegeli (in German), with an image of "Undine" before the restoration. URL last accessed February 23 2006.] In October 2004, "Undine" was restored and other graffiti added later were removed.Fuchs, M.: " [http://www.unipublic.unizh.ch/campus/uni-news/2005/1928.html "Undine" bleibt] ", University Zürich, October 17 2005. In German, with an image of the work after its restoration. URL last accessed February 23 2006.]

References

Main sources:

*Billeter, F.: " [http://www.g26.ch/texte_graffiti_06.html Harald Naegeli: Der Sprayer von Zürich erregt – im doppelten Wortsinn – Aufsehen mit seinen Strichfiguren] ", in Bianchi, P. (ed.): "Graffiti. Wandkunst und wilde Bilder"; Birkhäuser, Basel 1984. ISBN 3-7643-1617-9. In German.

Other sources:

External links

* [http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/mypics/532042/display/2534100 Two] [http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/mypics/532042/display/2534106 images] of Naegeli from 1984, showing him at Lörrach in the company of Beuys when he turned himself in to the Swiss police.
* [http://www.graffiti.org/zurich/naegeli.html Harald Naegeli] : Summary at graffiti.org, with several images.


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