Iconic or insensitive? Graffitist hits back at critics with SECOND Breaking Bad mural in Northern Quarter

By Suzanne Duffy

A graffiti artist is courting controversy by painting a SECOND Breaking Bad mural in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

MM readers were in dispute last week after Akse P.19’s mural of Breaking Bad’s Walter White split opinion with residents in the Northern Quarter – some seeing it as a fun tribute, others as ‘hugely insensitive’.

Many were unimpressed that the street artist’s work was so close to where two men were arrested in 2011 for allegedly running a crystal meth lab.

“To deliberately choose to put this piece up as a tribute, at the site of a notorious crystal meth lab is hugely insensitive to say the least,” one said.

“[I] can’t think of a bigger slap in the face to those that actually live in this community.”

Another comment read: “As a local resident I don’t like the symbolism of psychopaths all over my neighbourhood.”

However with Akse P.19 adding a second mural next to The Wheatsheaf, this time of Breaking Bad character Hank Schrader, the graffiti is bound to reopen the debate.

MM spoke to Manchester residents who will regularly pass the new artwork and many viewed it in a more positive light.

Oldham resident Philip Hardy, 24, said: “They’re quite good, this one and the one round the corner too.

“I don’t take drugs but I can quite happily enjoy the show.”

Carl Roland, 34, a store worker from Manchester, pointed out there are worse things to do to a wall: “I don’t see a problem. It’s better than crappy graffiti, it’s art.”

AKSE STRIKES BACK: A second Breaking Bad character, Hank Schrader, near The Wheatsheaf

Liam Walsh, a 20-year-old student who lives in a flat with windows overlooking the mural agrees.

“It’s brightened up a dirty wall where there was a lot of graffiti before,” he said.

He is accepting of the subject matter, saying: “People take drugs, I mean, alcohol is a drug.”

Passer-by Sally Stansfield, 45, didn’t know at first who the picture was of, but being told it was from a television show about drugs didn’t alter her attitude.

“Well that’s today’s world isn’t it,” she shrugged. “I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

But not everyone was so welcoming. 

Sam Morris, 31, walks through the Northern Quarter on his way to work each morning and has been sceptical of the graffiti from the outset.

“Why are we celebrating people who create a dangerous, addictive drug?” he said. “Just because it’s fiction, doesn’t make it any less of a stupid thing to do. 

“Crystal meth is a very dangerous drug that ruins people’s lives, so to celebrate it as if this character is some kind of ‘hero’ in an area where it was known to be linked with the production of the drug isn’t hip or cool, it’s downright insensitive. It makes me laugh that people are foolish enough to think this is ironic in any way – it’s really not.”

DEFACED: The original Breaking Bad graffiti suffered ‘Walter Sh**e’ etchings on it

A different kind of objection came from 52-year-old Henry Walker, a Manchester resident who criticised it from an architectural perspective.

He complained: “It’s good, but it’s in the wrong spot because it doesn’t go with the atmosphere of the pub.”

However, the critics have not deterred Akse who said his current psychopaths project, which the Breaking Bad murals are part of, are just one area of his work.

He outlined his plans for the future: “A project I have in mind for nearly 10 years would be to paint Mancunian icons in the city centre.

“Manchester has so many icons to be proud of! It would be the first city on this planet to have a local graffiti artist to pay tribute to its great people.”

Let us know what your thoughts are on the graffiti using the comment box below.

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