Begging the question of whether it’s still “street art” if you commission it for a Museum, Jeffrey Deitch, director of LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, had a freshly completed mural by Italian street artist, Blu, immediately white washed.
Looks like street art to me!
The rather heavy-handed mural depicting military coffins draped with out-sized dollar bills instead of flags (get it?), graced the north wall of the Geffen Contemporary Building for only the time it took to document it as part of the exhibit for the show’s catalog.
MOCA’s official statement says that the mural was “inappropriate” and pointed out that The Geffen Contemporary building’s north wall sits directly in front of the Go For Broke Monument that commemorates Japanese American soldiers and is very near the Veterans Affairs building.
Deitch told reporters that the issue is not censorship but timing: “Blu was supposed to fly out the second-to-last week in November, so we could have conversations about it in advance,. But he said he had to change his flights, so he ended up working in isolation without any input.”
Immediate comparisons to the Smithsonian/Wojnarowicz debacle show just how sensitive the creative community is these days to any hint of censorship.
But, Deitch dismisses any similarity in the cases:
“Look at my gallery website — I have supported protest art more than just about any other mainstream gallery in the country. But as a steward of a public institution, I have to balance a different set of priorities — standing up for artists and also considering the sensitivities of the community.”
Deitch also claims that he and the artist are “on friendly terms, ” but Blu’s blog features a photo of the naked wall with the capton, “A really nice, big wall, in downtown L.A.”
ADDENDUM: Via Hyperallergic: Blu claims that Deitch’s mural kill is indeed “censorship”; airs e-mail exchanges that challenge Deitch’s statements. This, likely, will turn into a fine back and forth. And in this hypersensitive atmosphere where artists, arts institutions, and pressure groups feel they are at war, issues like this one are bound to escalate. It is my own opinion that MOCA may not have dealt honestly with the artist and the public, but that the removal of the mural was not censorship. The commission was a blunder and the PR has been less than honest: period.