30-year-old Swiss national Renato S. was sentenced to 14 months in prison in March 2014 for plastering buildings in Vienna with his ‘Puber’ graffiti tag. The judge ruled that he had caused criminal damage amounting to around €50,000. Puber served ten months of his sentence and then moved back to Zürich.
Martin Ho, who runs the HO gallery which will be showing Puber’s work said that the idea is “to get Vienna talking, and maybe help people understand Puber’s work”.
The exhibition is called ‘I Like to Write my Name on your Property’ and opens on February 17th.
“Puber’s work is quite unique in Austria – it’s the kind of thing that’s common in New York but here it causes a stir and even splits opinion in the graffiti scene,” Ho said. “There are very few graffiti sprayers now who would dare to leave their name everywhere.”
Puber’s graffiti works have been exhibited in other galleries, with price tags as high as €1,500.
Puber, who left his mark mostly around the 7th district, was extremely unpopular with many Vienna residents and even with other graffiti artists as he would spray his tag over their work. He also sprayed over children’s murals. Some local newspapers referred to him as “public enemy number 1”. However, he also had his fans and even imitators.
Vienna lawyer Georg Grubhofer said that if Austrians “Arnulf Rainer and Hermann Nitsch are considered artists, then Puber should be too”.
However the curator of the Kunsthaus Zürich gallery, Catherine Hug, is more sceptical: “You can call it art. But whether it’s any good, is a different question.”