THERE have been calls to remove a piece of artwork from a gallery amid claims it is "offensive" as it features the words "Covid is a scam".

An oil painting on display at Rottingdean Heritage Art Gallery depicts a man on Saltdean Beach with graffiti reading "Covid is a scam" behind him.

The artwork was created by Saltdean-based portrait artist Jake Fern.

A disgruntled gallery attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, is calling for the artwork to be removed due to its “offensive” nature.

“Amongst some rather nice local landscapes, one artist has placed a painting with the words ‘Covid in a scam’ scrawled over it,” he said. “I'm not sure if these are the views of the artist but me and my wife found it quite upsetting.

“A friend of ours has suffered some serious issues because of covid and I can assure anyone that it is not a scam.”

He added: “I hope we can get this removed before it causes more upset.”

The Argus: The artwork was created by Saltdean-based portrait artist Jake FernThe artwork was created by Saltdean-based portrait artist Jake Fern

Jake, who is a finalist in this year’s Worthing Portrait Artist of the Year competition, said no offence was meant when creating the piece.

“Sorry that someone was offended. It’s a sensitive subject for sure, but the painting was simply documenting graffiti that I have seen locally,” he said.

“Although some may be offended by it, many also sympathise with that point of view and open date is always healthy.”

Jake said he chose to depict that scene due to the contrasts between the beach huts and the graffiti.

“The fact that people have to resort to graffiti to get their point of view out says something to me,” he added.

“There is no real debate in the media and alternative opinions are ridiculed even though people have genuine concerns about how Covid has been handled and the global response, which to many seems massively disproportionate.”

The angered art fan said artistic views on the topic of Covid “should not be on show in public places”.

“His paintings are very well executed, it’s just a shame he has to contaminate them with this.”

A spokeswoman from Rottingdean Heritage said no other complaints or adverse comments were received about the artwork.

“Although it may be regrettable that offence has been caused to a member of the public by a work exhibited in our gallery by an artist, we do not have a policy of censoring works which are within the law,” she said.

“The views expressed in any piece of artwork exhibited are those of the artist.

“In this case, the artwork depicts a neutral description of a scene that can be seen on many city streets, rather than an expression of opinion about Covid.”