Artist who created mural for Wigan borough punk pioneer sees Ian Curtis artwork painted over

The artist who created a mural in the borough of punk pioneer Pete Shelley has spoken out after his artwork of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis was painted over for a new album release.

The wall painting on Port Street, in Curtis’ home city of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, was unveiled in 2020 by highly-acclaimed street artist Akse P19.

It was revealed on Tuesday that the piece had been covered over with the visuals for rapper Aitch’s new album Close To Home, which is due out on Friday.

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Akse, who was commissioned for the artwork of Buzzcock’s frontman Pete Shelley in Leigh, posted on social media to express his disappointment at the move.

He said: “So my mural of Ian Curtis based on the original photograph by Philippe Carly has been painted over to promote the release of a new album.

“Personally I don’t have anything against hand-painted advertising as this is how I make a living, but this mural was painted in collaboration with Headstock UK and supported by Manchester City Council and Sweet Nothing MCR to raise awareness for Mental Health and support Shout’s free text messaging services to help people with mental health issues.

"It had become a cultural landmark and meant so much to people from Manchester and beyond; it doesn’t take much common sense to understand that this mural should have remained for what it represented and stood for.”

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The mural was painted over to promote Aitch's new albumThe mural was painted over to promote Aitch's new album
The mural was painted over to promote Aitch's new album
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Rapper Aitch has said he is trying to fix the situation “pronto” after being made aware of the situation.

The 22-year-old tweeted: “It’s come to light that the iconic Ian Curtis mural on Port Street has been painted over with my album artwork.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of this, me and my team are getting this fixed pronto.

"No way on earth would I want to disrespect a local hero like Ian.”

The mural of Ian Curtis in Manchester's Northern QuarterThe mural of Ian Curtis in Manchester's Northern Quarter
The mural of Ian Curtis in Manchester's Northern Quarter
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On Wednesday morning, the wall appeared to have been returned to a blank state.

Curtis fronted influential Salford post-punk band Joy Division for four years until 1980 when he took his own life, aged 23, on the eve of their first North American tour.

The quick response from Aitch, real name Harrison Armstrong, prompted a positive reaction from a number of famous Manchester artists.

Peter Hook, bassist in Joy Division and later in New Order, responded with thumbs up emoji and wrote: “Thank you @OfficialAitch great gesture.”

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The 1990s electronic dance music group N-Trance and singer Rowetta from the Happy Mondays were also among those praising the move.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham tweeted: “Respect to @OfficialAitch for this. It should never have happened and he shouldn’t have been put in this position.

“Ian is a true icon of our city. He must be fully restored and left in his place for time in memoriam.

"Thanks to everyone for showing what Ian means to us.”

In May, former members of Joy Division gathered for a mental health panel in the Houses of Parliament to mark 42 years to the day since Curtis’s death.

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Following his death, the band continued under the new name of New Order, eschewing their dark post-punk sound in favour of synths and electronic beats, and becoming a powerful commercial force.