Historians accuse German sportswear brand Puma of damaging an old district of Delhi, India. Puma apparently spray-bombed graffitis on antique walls when they shot their latest advert, titled Suede Gully. In the video, we see Indian rappers and artists partying in various graffiti-ridden locations.
The area is 'disfigured'
Art historians who work to preserve Indian cultural heritage are blaming Puma for having disfigured the area, funded in the seventeenth century by Mughal emperor Shâh Jahân.
Historian Rana Safvi, a specialist of the Moghol empire era, said to The Guardian that the houses, with their wooden doors, lakhori brickwork and sandstone walls could be around two hundred years old. She said that "This is in effect defacing a heritage area."
Swapna Liddle, another historian, member of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, backed his colleague's words, stating to AFP:
"You can’t just go and paint what you like. Those who made and approved this advertisement, those who stood by while this was done, are all responsible for this insensitive treatment."
A spokeswoman for Balancing Act, the agency hired by Puma for this ad campaign, said that "all the required permissions [had] been obtained to carry out the video shoot and painting of the building."
"Before carrying out the execution of art on the walls, we had taken permission from the owner of the property and as the property was a private one, we took his permission as that is all that is required.
The owner wasn’t aware that his property is protected as a heritage property and hence we were not made aware."
The agency has since then promised to restore the building to their original state. As for the owner, he defended both the agency and Puma, saying to the Indian Express: "This is a private property and the graffiti is making the area look more beautiful."
INTACH complains that cultural heritage regulations are often ignored in India. One example is the proliferation of posters flyers on many historical buildings of the capital. Hopefully, Puma will be true to their word and put the Moghol houses back the way they found them.