As we reported last week, world class Italian street artist BLU’s controversial mural on the Geffen Contemporary was whitewashed after being up for only 24 hours. As a piece created to promote MOCA’s upcoming Art on the Streets “street art” exhibit, many assumed the buffing over of BLU’s work was a Banksy-style publicity stunt. Well, turns out it wasn’t a stunt at all but a significant act of censorship. As reported in the LA Times, the whitewash of BLU’s mural was an explicit action taken due to the piece being deemed “inappropriate” because of its proximity to a Veteran’s Administration. Sorry Jeffrey Deitch, but that excuse just doesn’t cut it — oftentimes an anti-war message is the strongest support possible for veterans and potential future veterans to guard against unnecessary or profit-initiated wars (which seems to be the point of the mural). How can you support veterans any more than to prevent our soldiers (brothers, friends, sons, daughters, husbands) from dying unnecessarily? And even if one disagrees completely with the message, for a museum to censor a piece of art — especially one it commissioned to promote an exhibit built on protest art — is embarrassing at least and offensive at worst. “If you’re planning on mounting the largest graffiti show in a major institution, you’ve got to give the artists the freedom to do the movement justice — so there’s a big failure in what just happened,” argues Daniel Lahoda — founder of LA Freewalls Project and the photographer who documented its removal — in the LA Times piece. “The last thing we want is an art institution, someone supposed to support creativity, to destroy it.” What seems to be the strangest element to the whole story is MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch’s admission that the removal was not due to any complaints (he didn’t receive any) but was his own pre-emptive measure: “This is 100% about my effort to be a good, responsible, respectful neighbor in this historic community… Out of respect for someone who is suffering from lung cancer, you don’t sit in front of them and start chain smoking.” I’m not sure I understand that broken metaphor. BLU’s mural isn’t akin to smoking in front of a cancer patient, it’s akin to putting up an anti-smoking sign in front of a cancer treatment center. Putting up a pro-Bush & Cheney billboard in front of a Veteran’s Administration would be akin to chain smoking in front of a cancer patient. Honestly, a very disappointing decision on MOCA’s recently minted director.
MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch's most disappointing action