Should Michael Jackson mural ‘beat it’? No, artist says

BY GABE HERMAN | The East Village mural of Michael Jackson that went up last summer will stay up, according to the artist who painted it.

The new HBO documentary about the singer, “Leaving Neverland,” highlights damning new sex-abuse allegations against the late “King of Pop.” However, a survey of the area found people mostly supportive of the mural and Jackson.

Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra put up several murals around the city over several months last year, as The Villager reported.

Eduardo Kobra’s split-portrait mural of Michael Jackson at E. 11th St. and First Ave. (Photo by Bob Krasner)

The works were part of Kobra’s “Colors of Freedom” project. They included Mother Teresa and Gandhi in Chelsea, a 9/11 firefighter on the Upper East Side, and a Run-DMC mural in the East Village.

The Michael Jackson mural went up in July and is at E. 11 St. and First Ave. It is a split-portrait of Jackson’s face, with the left side showing him as a child during his Jackson 5 days, and the right side depicting him as an adult.

Jackson faced child sex-abuse allegations going back decades to when he was still the biggest pop star in the world. The HBO documentary aired March 3 and 4, and brought the issue back with detailed descriptions from two men who claimed they were sexually abused by Jackson over several years.

Kobra has decided to keep the mural up, he recently told Timeout NY. He said the mural was not simply a tribute, but showed Jackson’s transformations in his life, including black to white, kid to adult, and natural to unnatural, he said.

The MJ mural is a splash of a color on a rainy day in the East Village — but some now say they find it disturbing in light of new sex-abuse allegations against the famous singer. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

“I was trying to describe that people sometimes have to go through so much to be able to reach their own peace of mind, and even then, sometimes doesn’t matter what people do, they can never reach that peace,” Kobra said in the Timeout NY interview.

The muralist also noted Jackson’s major place and impact in music history.

“We can’t just erase him from history,” he said. “These new allegations can be true or not. It is not up to me to judge if MJ is guilty or not. I really hope that mural can do its part and bring us to think about it all and how we, as persons and as a community, will deal with this new fact concerning MJ’s life.”

Two visitors from Germany, standing at the East Village corner, said they thought the mural should stay.

“I love it,” said Daniella Schneider, who noted she has the same birthday as Michael Jackson. She said she doesn’t believe the accusations against Jackson, and that the mural enlivens the building and the area.

Franco Carbone agreed that the artwork gave soul to the building, and brought people together to talk about it. He said it was good to have a tribute for Jackson.

“I like the message,” he said. “He’s the King of Pop.”

Carbone also doesn’t believe the accusations, and said bad news gets more attention than good news, including in the media.

“It’s better business,” he said.

A food vendor posted right beside the mural also didn’t believe the accusations against Jackson and said the mural should stay up.

“Why not? He’s a legend,” he said. “There’s nobody like him.”

But another woman thought the mural should be taken down. She believed the allegations against Jackson, and said she now found it disturbing to see his oversized image on the wall.

“The mural depicts him as larger than life,” she said, “and, in a way, puts him on a pedestal, which disrespects the children he hurt and all who are affected by abuse.”

Artist Kobra, in his recent statement about the Jackson mural, put a positive spin on things.

“Hopefully,” he said, “this discussion leads us all to the desire to be a better person every day.”

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