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Huge Greta Thunberg mural completed near Union Square

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Artist behind Market Street’s Robin Williams mural sets his sights higher

Andres Petroselli paints a mural on the side of a building depicting Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Photo by AP Photo/Ben Margot

Update: Time on Wednesday announced the young climate activist Greta Thunberg as its person of the year.

The watchful gaze of Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg—famous the world over for her fiery speech at the United Nations—now turns to San Francisco.

Not in the form of Thunberg herself, but instead a towering image of her painted on the side of the Native Sons building on Mason Street.

The SF-based environmental nonprofit One Atmosphere takes credit for sponsoring the tableau, part of what it plans as a series of artworks highlighting climate activists.

“Greta’s importance to the fight against climate change is unmistakable,” the group says, crediting 16-year-old Thunberg for “[giving] youth a more powerful voice than ever before.”

One Atmosphere says the Native Sons building, which hosts the August Hall nightclub and, previously, the longtime Ruby Skye venue, donated the north-facing wall to the project.

The artist is Nino Cobre, the same Argentinian maestro who created the haunting and now demolished image of Robin Williams’ soulful gaze on Market Street in 2018. Cobre—real name Andrés Pereoselli—specializes in startling large-scale portraits that emphasize the eyes. In fact many of his most prominent works are almost nothing but the eyes, but in this case Thunberg is getting the full-face treatment.

Since the mural made national headlines over the weekend, conservative editorials have had a good chuckle over what they perceive as environmental damage created by a spray paint-based work. And some environmental activists have noted the irony of painting the mural on the side of a mid-rise (a construction that helps reduce emissions), which is illegal in most of the city.

On Instagram, One Atmosphere pushed back on the criticism Monday, saying that “the vast majority of the paint is water-based acrylic exterior paint that was rolled onto the building by hand” and that Cobre only added the “finishing details” via a type of pray paint formulated to have minimal environmental impact.

Even the lift the artist uses to get to the top of the eight-story building every day is electric, and the empty cans will end up reused as part of a different art piece in the future.

Cobre hopes to finish the piece in a couple of days.