How Gandhi Made It to Police Headquarters; The black-and-white portrait of the bespectacled man who led India to freedom from the British in 1947 is perhaps the most striking work in the ongoing street art festival in New Delhi

Feb 13, 2014

How Gandhi Made It to Police Headquarters



A portrait of Gandhi on the Delhi Police headquarters, January 29.

On Jan. 20 Hendrik Beikirch left his house in the German city of Koblenz to travel 90 miles south to Frankfurt. There, he boarded his first flight to New Delhi. A few days later, the 39-year-old began etching the largest ever life-size mural of Mahatma Gandhi in the heart of the Indian capital.

The black-and-white portrait of the bespectacled man who led India to freedom from the British in 1947 is perhaps the most striking work in the ongoing street art and graffiti festival in New Delhi. The mural is etched onto the nerve center of the 80,000-plus police force of India’s capital; its towering headquarters.

What prompted organizers to pick the face of Gandhi?

We felt it was “a safe, wise and non-controversial choice,” festival organizer Hanif Kureshi said. But it took a month to get a go-ahead from the police fraternity.

“We prepared ourselves anticipating it might take a lot of patience,” Mr. Kureshi said. But once the proposal made it onto the desks of senior police officials, the final approval from the commissioner of the police force in December was “surprisingly easy and smooth,” he added.

Mr. Beikirch and Anpu Varkey, a 33-year-old Indian painter, first examined the police headquarters on Jan. 21, three days before they began painting. “I noticed that it was a dense site- in the middle of so many people, buildings- and understood that the painting needed to unify so many different opinions in that chaos,” Mr. Beikirch said.

But the duo recall being unimpressed by the dull, grey walls of the police building, particularly its peeling and coarse texture. Their first stop: a hardware and paint market.

Armed with dozens of tins of exterior house paint and cans of spray paint – all in black, white and two varying shades of grey – the crew had one last thing on their checklist: a cherry picker to scale the tall walls of the headquarters.  They finally settled on an aerial lift by Genie, a U.S.-based crane company.

Ms. Varkey likens the first ride on it to the “giant wheel rides in childhood, where the pit of your stomach drops off.” The basket attached to the tip of the crane was where the pair spent the next five days recreating Gandhi.

Mr. Beikirch, who uses the pen name ECB, said that elements of the mural — a black and white painting of an old man’s face – were his signature style. A nearly 230-feet mural of a man’s face he painted in South Korea in 2012 stands unbeaten as the tallest in Asia. For that portrait, like most of his works, a random face he’d see on the street inspired his art. But this painting of Gandhi with a faint smile of his face, had its source in an photograph, one of the thousands available on a Germany-based digital media archive dedicated to father of modern India.

On Jan. 24, the first day of painting, the artists focused on creating the outline of Gandhi’s eyes. “Once you get the eyes right, everything else follows,” Mr. Beikirch said. They proceeded, the next day, to the nose and the chin. Working through India’s Republic Day on Jan. 26, they spent three more days finishing the forehead, ears, a portion of the neck and chest, as well as the quintessential white drape over Gandhi’s right shoulder.

Each day, they would scale the roof of an adjoining mosque to track the progress on their mural. For an artwork as colossal, “the things you want to correct, you can only see from a distance,” Mr. Beikirch said.

Besides the mural itself, Mr. Beikirch says his biggest takeaway was witnessing India’s Republic Day Parade, which takes place near the president’s palace three miles away, from the top of the police headquarters. For Ms. Varkey, this was the first time she had seen the ceremonial march apart from on her television screen.

On Jan 30, the 66th death anniversary of Gandhi, the city’s lieutenant governor unveiled the gigantic mural. Organizers believed rendering a painting of this magnitude was key to promoting street art in a country where the art form is often seen as vandalism.

Mr. Beikirch says the mural drew him back to a childhood memory of the first movie he saw in a cinema: British director Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning “Gandhi.”


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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