JOHOR BARU - The "Lego man" graffiti row has taken on a life of its own, with much of Malaysia's civil society backing Lithuanian-born artist Ernest Zacharevic's work, in defiance of the local authorities.
Many people, including Singaporeans from across the Causeway, have flocked to view the graffiti at Taman Molek, unaware that the work on the wall was actually cut-out stickers of Mr Zacharevic's original painting, The Star newspaper reported.
The artist had painted a knife- wielding man lying in wait for a female victim around the corner. Both figures were drawn in the style of Lego toys. It was not clear when the painting was done.
But the artwork upset the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB), which said it harmed the city's reputation. After the council ordered the painting to be whitewashed, other artists painted a policeman beside the robber, in a bid to "sanitise" the artwork, according to Sin Chew Daily News.
The MBJB was not pacified and the painting was whitewashed on Wednesday.
Soon after, someone pasted cut- outs of the original painting at several places in Taman Molek, The Star reported. These cut-outs were subsequently removed.
Among the critics of the Johor authorities was Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who said the artwork was not defamatory.
"If the picture of the criminal is someone important, then it is wrong because it is defamatory.
"But if it is just art, action should not be taken," the Malaysia Sun quoted him as saying.
One of those who saw the cut-outs before they were removed was a Singaporean businessman, known only as Mr Lim. He said he decided to visit Taman Molek after reading about the graffiti on the Internet.
"I did not know that it had been removed, and that this is a paper cut-out," he said on Thursday, adding that it looked real.
The Star reported that Mr Zacharevic was hired by a local cafe to create a painting. He stayed on in Johor after the cafe project and created the controversial wall painting.
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