Ever since it’s grown big enough for the general public to notice — roughly the same time its multimillion-dollar Denver location began rising at the intersection of West Colfax Avenue and I-25 last year — Meow Wolf has become a target.
The Santa Fe-based immersive art company, which traces roots to Denver’s nationally renowned DIY venue Rhinoceropolis, has been the subject of lawsuits and complaints as it expands its interactive art-and-play galleries nationally, including planned locations in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.
The most significant targeting has been the figurative kind: former employees suing the company for alleged mistreatment, and local artists sniping the company on social media for what they feel are big-footing attempts to buy up the creative talent in the markets Meow Wolf has entered.
But then there’s the literal kind.
On Wednesday, 9News reporter Marshall Zelinger noticed another, hastily scrawled graffiti tag on the south-facing wall of Meow Wolf’s Denver complex, which sits along one of the city’s busiest traffic corridors — just between the Broncos’ home field and the Pepsi Center, and within a stone’s throw of the Auraria Campus.
“Is this graffiti or art?” Zelinger asked, echoing a criticism that street artists have been forced to confront in recent years as outdoor walls have increasingly transformed into sponsored galleries, in addition to advertising spaces.
By 10 a.m. Thursday morning, the tag had been removed, according to a Denver Post photographer.
It’s not the first time the building has been tagged. But it is one of the biggest and most visible.
“Some of the (jeering) sentiments have been shared in graffiti on the under-construction Meow Wolf building,” Westword reported last year. “It’s been quickly scrubbed off, and banners announcing that there were cameras on the structure also disappeared.”
So what does Meow Wolf think about all this?
“As we continue progress on our exhibition, we recognize we put up a giant canvas in the middle of Denver,” company officials said in a statement provided to The Denver Post. “We were hoping our blank canvas would only be used in imagination, but alas, it has been gathering some…. vandalism? Probably… or is it… art?”
The ambivalence makes sense, given that the company started as a loose, scrappy artist collective before growing into one of the most successful leaders of the “immersive economy” that had taken root prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
But until the building actually opens and people can see for themselves what Meow Wolf has in store for Denver, the graffiti’s value is in the eye of the beholder, Meow Wolf said.
“We leave that up to the observer,” company officials said. “But do know there are plans for some official murals around the site and will have more to share soon.”
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