The gatekeepers must be restored after 25 years


ZUTPHEN – Twenty-five meters high, ten meters wide. Artist Tanja Papez accepts the challenge: she has to paint De Poortwachters, the 1997 artwork by Jessica Heijkoop on the side wall of the apartment on the Beethovenstraat in Zutphen. It will be like new again.

By Sander Grootendorst

The collection of Erfgoedcentrum Zutphen contains a postcard of the twenty-five-year-old artwork in unweathered condition. The blue in the top is darker and stronger, the greenish-yellow of the clothes lighter. The test of time has slowly but surely done its work. How long would it take for The Gatekeepers to fade into obscurity?

It didn’t get that far, but Zutphensen Tanja Papez (50) was allowed to restore the artwork by housing company Alle1. In practice, this means: careful repainting. Easier said than done.

“Last year I was also able to restore the mural on Rossinistraat. He is even older, thirty years old. I had already thought that it would be De Poortwachters’ turn, but not that Elke1 would approach so quickly. The previous wall was twelve meters high, this one is twenty-five. And to think that I am really afraid of heights. But I have noticed that it gives a kick when it works. It takes a bit of sinking in, but I’m sure it will be fine now too.”

‘It will take a bit of sinking but I’m sure it will be fine now’

Last year she hung it in a ‘loose in a container’ from a cherry picker, this time a suspension bridge installation will be placed on the roof, a kind of flexible scaffolding. “Then you go up and down the wall, you get closer to the wall.” It gives confidence, and Papez also observes when he looks up at the roof that the paintwork at the top is ‘clearly less detailed’ than at the bottom. So she spends less time on that. The basis of the artwork consists of twenty-four squares with an image in each of them. “It contains references to the Hanseatic period, that ship, for example, and that house. It says: Faith, hope and love. And this – I asked the artist – it is simply: all ducks swim in the water. Nice for the children who live here.”

The weathered facade on Beethovenstraat.

Papez visited artist Jessica Heijkoop. “Of course I wanted to involve her and give her a word. She was delighted to hear that her painting will live for another twenty-five years. We decided the colors together. She said that it was painted with paint from the company Brillux from Apeldoorn. I now want to use it again.” Heijkoop was also able to work on a suspension bridge construction in 1997. “Zutphen was ahead of his time.” This also applies to the idea of ​​murals on large buildings in general; increasingly popular today. For example may Papez paint a wall in a family home in Spankeren. “The residents all choose a flower, which is included in the painting. Symbol of everyone’s growth and prosperity.”

The gatekeepers symbolically guard Papez’s hometown of Zutphen. Her own work can be seen in the hospital and fire station and (the only one in the open) in a garage in De Hoven.

The job on Beethovenstraat can start in the week of October 17. “Insulation material needs to be injected into this wall first, in 44 holes. Then I’ll close it up again.” Papez is hoping for three dry October weeks. If that doesn’t work, there’s room to fall back. If October falls completely into the water, the spring of 2023 is an alternative.

“In terms of insurance, I am bound by the construction workers’ working hours for the suspension bridge, while I myself like to continue in the evenings and weekends, especially when the weather turns out to be good painting weather. Maybe I can set up a scaffolding on the ground from which I can make the boxes below.
Even to be able to reach it, you have to be at it. Papez positions himself at the bottom of the facade and stares into the sky. “When I’m hanging there twenty-five meters above the ground, of course I want a beautiful view of the city.”

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