It may not be Scotland’s biggest castle, but Kelburn Castle – 35 miles west of Glasgow – is certainly the country’s brightest. Forget the traditional grey or brown facade you see on most castles. An array of vibrant colours and oversized, abstract characters cover Kelburn, bringing a thoroughly modern veneer to the 13th-century building.
The Graffiti Project started in 2007 when the castle’s owner, the Earl of Glasgow, learned he needed to remove a cement render that had been added to the building in the 1950s. At the urging of his children, the earl, Patrick Boyle, agreed to have the cement painted before it was removed, so he invited a group of four Brazilian street artists to adorn the castle’s turret and walls with their unique style of graffiti art.
Artists Nina Pandolfo and Nunca, as well as the twins known as Os Gêmeos, used more than 1,500 cans of spray paint to complete the design. The murals depict playful, larger-than-life cartoons in the surreal and imaginative style that the artists are known for in their native Sao Paulo. Their work quickly gained recognition as one of the best examples of street art in the world, mentioned alongside works by Banksy and Keith Haring.
The artwork was meant to be removed after three years, but because it drew visitors from around the world, the earl appealed to Historic Scotland, the government agency responsible for preserving historic buildings, to make it permanent. However, a 2012 inspection revealed that the cement was severely damaging the original castle walls, and the agency urged its removal.
Plans are now in place to remove the graffiti and underlying cement by the summer of 2015. The castle’s owners say they’ll hold a contest for architects and designers to find an equally unique design to take the artwork’s place – one that doesn’t damage the castle walls.
David Boyle, son of the earl, told HeraldScotland in July: “It could be anything, audiovisual elements, maybe, or lighting…we just want to put it out there and see what ideas we get back.”
While the graffiti has gotten most of the attention lately, the interior of the castle reopened to the public in April after a major renovation, with castle tours available in June, July and August. The surrounding grounds, which include forest trails and an animal park, are open to the public year-round, so anyone who wants to see the unlikely artwork firsthand still has time.