Art or political propaganda? Electoral Commission investigating artists' Jacinda Ardern appreciation poster

Emily van Velthooven
Source: 1News

The Electoral Commission is investigating a poster made in tribute to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after receiving complaints it breached the rules about political advertising.

Otis Frizzell and Mike Weston were brainstorming ideas inside their studio one day after the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We wanted to come up with a way to thank Jacinda Ardern for her compassionate response to Covid-19. This has nothing to do with her as Prime Minister, it’s about her as an individual,” Mr Frizzell said.

After the original painting was sold, the artists created prints and told customers that for every poster sold, they’d plaster another one up around the country.

But with the election so close, a number of complaints have been sent to the Electoral Commission.

“We got a letter from the senior legal advisor from the electoral commission to say they’ve received a number of complaints that our poster constituted a party advertisement and it didn’t have the appropriate permission and promote a declaration on it for it to get over the line for that,” Mr Weston said.

Wellington Barrister Graeme Edegeler said he didn't think the poster breached any rules.

“A copy of it isn’t being put in everyone’s mailbox," he said.

"If there are a few posters up advertising it, those aren’t advertisements either. Not for the election, but certainly the art by itself absolutely not.

"It’s just not advertising."

But the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union have raised concerns on social media, questioning whether the posters should be considered election advertisements.

In a post on Facebook, the union wrote: “For the sake of transparency, election advertisements are legally required to carry a ‘promoter statement’ stating who is responsible.”

In a statement to 1 NEWS, the Prime Minister's office said the issue was matter for the artists involved, and that Jacinda Ardern was not involved in the production, distribution or endorsement of the posters.  

Mr Frizzell said they were aware of potential complaints.

“It doesn’t say Labour anywhere, we were very careful it’s not all red," he said.

"It’s not Labour red. It’s red and blue. It doesn’t have the Labour font. There’s no logos. It doesn’t say vote, there’s no call to action.

"It just says love.”

About 40 posters have already been on display across the country, with another 40 set to be plastered if Mr Frizzell and Mr Weston get the green light to continue.