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Sex Hamburger Mural Sparks Censorship Scandal

5 October 2015

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories. Follow @Rakewelltweets

‘We, by our arts may be called the grandsons of God’, Leonardo wrote in his notebooks. Perhaps he had a point; it is, after all, the arts that grant our humble race permanence, our capacity for artifice that definitively separates man from beast.

Meditating on these thoughts, Rakewell’s attention is drawn to Melbourne, where a local council has issued a complaint about a mural that is rather less than divine.

'The Kama Sutra' burger in its uncensored glory.

‘The Kama Sutra’ burger in its uncensored glory. Photo: Facebook (Mike Makatron)

The trouble was sparked by the work of a ‘street artist’ by the name of Makatron, who was commissioned to create a giant decorative scene on the side of a local textiles factory. For reasons that remain beyond the Rake’s imagination, Makatron (real name: Mike Maka) elected to paint a giant hamburger, its buns containing several dozen layers of copulating couples. It is, apparently, a critique of the exploitation of women’s bodies: forgive the Rake his ignorance, but quite how this manifests itself in the work is not entirely clear to him.

The ‘Kama Sutra Burger’, as it has been dubbed, did not whet the appetites of local residents. In a move that was, depending on your view, either censorious or just sensible, Moreland council ordered business owner Dean Sunshine to get rid of Makatron’s tasteful tableau. The decision sparked outrage in the local media and an online petition. ‘The public is mature enough to deal with the slightest suggestion of sexual behaviour’, it read, ‘especially when so skilfully hidden within a beautiful juicy burger’.

The furore prompted the councillors to back down. Now, instead of demanding the mural’s complete removal, they are merely asking for it to be toned down a bit.

‘Art is certainly in the eye of the beholder,’ said Moreland Mayor Meghan Hopper, ‘but our arts and culture team does think there are a couple of parts of the image that might have crossed a few lines’.

That, certainly, is one way of putting it. Mr Makatron, whose website bio describes his work as ‘preoccupied with the interface between man, beast and machine’, had a different view: ‘I understand why some people don’t like it. But I don’t think it’s that graphic’.

Makatron has, however, hinted that he will comply with the council’s compromise, stating that he plans to add ‘add a little more lettuce in some parts and some cheese’.

All’s well that ends well, then. One question remains, though: would Leonardo have issued the same pronouncement on the condition of art if he’d lived to sample a Big Mac? The Rake’s attempts to contact the artist for comment via Ouija board have, sadly, been unsuccessful.

Got a story for Rakewell? E-mail rakewell@apollomag.com