A street artist proclaimed by some as Brisbane’s Banksy denies run-down sites across the city were damaged by his paintings, saying he had “blessed” the property with his work.
Anthony Lister faced the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Wednesday on one count of wilful damage by graffiti.
He admits painting five areas, including a graffiti-covered skate park, a wall facing an empty block and a laneway garage door, across Brisbane between 2009 and 2014 but denies his art constitutes damage.
The charge was brought by Brisbane City Council which has previously commissioned Lister to paint traffic signal boxes across the city.
Lister told the court he believed he had permission to paint a wall in Fortitude Valley and that other areas he painted were enhanced by his work as they had been defaced or were in poor condition.
“It wasn’t in any sort of condition to concern me that my gift wouldn’t be well received,” he said about a defaced fire hose box he partially painted.
“That’s enough grounds for me as an educated visual artist with a passion for (Brisbane’s) cultural progression to make the educated decision that a beautification blessing needs to take place.”
Lister’s lawyer, Stewart Levitt, argued that his client didn’t have reckless disregard for the property and that it added value to the sites and city.
“In my submission he’s not committing an offence if it’s at a site which is a site like a laneway or a garage door or a side street … such as the sites we have involved in these five instances,” he said.
Mr Levitt argued street art enhanced many cities around the world, boosted tourism and was known to deter people from tagging graffiti.
“This is a case where it would be … in many ways more detrimental to Brisbane’s reputation than to Mr Lister’s,” he said, adding that the artist was world-renowned in his field.
Earlier, former Brisbane deputy mayor David Hinchliffe described Lister’s work as contributing to the “beautification”, not degradation, of the city.
“I have a great envy for the career that he has been able to establish – he is a credit to Brisbane,” he said.
Lister was one of the first artists to paint Brisbane’s traffic signal boxes in a project launched by Mr Hinchliffe in 2000.
The court also heard Lister had completed a number of works for charitable causes, including a children’s hospital, was featured in Australian art and fashion magazines and had been offered an artistic residency in Vienna.
Prosecutors are expected to give their closing arguments on Thursday when the hearing resumes.