Chris Brown's Monstery House
Artist: Chris Brown
Date of Action: July 2013
Region: North America
Location: Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California
Medium: Design, Public Art
Confronting Bodies: Chris Brown, Hollywood Hills residents
Description of Artwork: Chris Brown painted 8-foot-tall figures of brightly colored monster characters with large fangs on the wall facing the street outside his house.
The Incident: This mural set off a storm of controversy in Brown's neighborhood, as some residents complained that the figures as graffiti frightened their children and worried that the value of their property would go down. He was fined $376 for "unpermitted and excessive signage." Brown retaliated by claiming, “the murals are a reflection of [my] aesthetic taste and a reflection of free speech and expression protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
However, while the Supreme Court has upheld the First Amendment right to Free Speech when it comes to signs on or outside of one’s home, it is the general consensus that where graffiti appears on private or public property without permission, it is against the law. In the past, its existence and appearance has often been tied to other types of crime, including gang-related activities. Yet, both the form and the content has been widely recognized as both art and cultural expression.
So, because aesthetic zoning, or regulations that seek to maintain a certain community appearance, are common, the question comes down to if Chris Brown’s monsters bother neighbors more because they find them disturbing looking, or because they are disturbed to be living next to a graffiti-adorned (some might say defaced) property.
Results of Incident: The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety believes it is the latter because it has denied Brown's bid to keep the graffiti mural on the wall. The monsters have since been painted over.