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Why Did eBay Pull This Artist’s Anti-Zimmerman Painting?

by Hrag Vartanian on December 24, 2013

Artist Michael D'Antuono's controversial painting was removed from eBay by the online auction service. (image via Raw Story)

Artist Michael D’Antuono’s controversial painting was removed from eBay by the online auction service. (image via Raw Story)

On the same day that George Zimmerman’s painting raked in over $100,000 on eBay, artist Micheal D’Antuono was told by the same online auction company that his artistic interpretation of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin confrontation violated eBay’s Hateful or Discriminatory policy and was removed from the website.

In an email D’Antuono provided to Raw Story, eBay told the artist that “[i]tems promoting or glorifying hatred, violence, or racial or religious intolerance aren’t allowed. Items that promote organizations with these views are also prohibited.” And they explained that “[t]he painting you listed appears to contain images or icons associated with the KKK which are not allowed to be listed on our site as they represent an organization that glorifies hate and violence.”

George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin and the sale of his painting, created with house paint and largely copied from a stock image, caused outrage among many who saw his acquittal as a severe miscarriage of justice.

D’Antuono’s own anger towards the idea that Zimmerman, who he believes was responsible for the murder of Martin, would profit from his notoriety was one of the main factors that pushed the artist to post his own painting for auction in the first place. He wrote on his Facebook page on December 20:

As if getting away with murder wasn’t enough, Remorseless George Zimmerman found a way to capitalize on his ill-gained celebrity by auctioning his “patriotic” painting on ebay. Even more astonishing, he found some well-heeled racist to pay $100,000 for it. The killer artist might not have paid for his crime, but he sure knows how to make crime pay. In response, I’m auctioning my painting on ebay (item#181285145260) & giving half the proceeds to The Trayvon Martin Foundation. I challenge George to do the same.

The following day, D’Antuono was contacted by eBay and had his item removed from the site. The artist posted the following note, dated December 22, on his personal Facebook page:

I’m sad to announce that ebay removed my “A Tale Of Two Hoodies” auction from their site. They allowed George Zimmerman to profit from his crime, yet I was denied the opportunity to speak out against racism & help victims. As the bidding started to gain momentum, passing the $25,000 mark, they took it off, deeming my auction “hateful and discriminatory.” If their stance seems wrong to you, feel free to share.

D’Antuono is no stranger to controversial imagery, and his stark imagery includes paintings of not-so-friendly pilgrims meeting Native Americans for the first time and blood-stained checks from the NRA being passed to politicians . But what remains unclear is why D’Antuono’s work in this instance was being targeted for removal?

A graphic created by artist Michael D'Antuono to highlight his case. (via Michael D'Antuono's Facebook page)

A graphic created by artist Michael D’Antuono before the removal of his artwork from eBay. (via Michael D’Antuono’s Facebook page)

While eBay’s letter cites the KKK imagery as the main reason for the removal, there remains numerous KKK-related images that are more graphic and hate-filled than D’Antuono’s painting, including photographs of lynching (like the image below) and numerous Klu Klux Klan-related items. This is a strange contradiction that the artist has pointed out on his own blog.

eBay item #271352485078 is labeled as "1991 View of a 1920 LYNCHING in Duluth Press Photo" and depicts a lynching of three black circus workers at the beginning of the 20th century. (screencapture by the author) (click to enlarge)

eBay item #271352485078 is labeled as “1991 View of a 1920 LYNCHING in Duluth Press Photo” and depicts a lynching of three black circus workers at the beginning of the 20th century. (screencapture by the author) (click to enlarge)

Hyperallergic has reached out to the artist and eBay for comment on the matter.

h/t @godVeveryone

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  • John Guild

    just what the world needs … more hate

    • Eric_Saunders

      The painting in question here is anti-racist. Do you have a hard time understanding straightforward symbolism?

      • Something

        I understand the symbolism. White people are racist and slaughter innocent, skittle carrying, black children.

        • Eric_Saunders

          You would have to make some kind of a leap to think the depiction of a murderous racist implies that all white individuals are racist. There is a reference to institutionalized (police) racism, so of course it is not referring to one individual… more like racism personified. I am not saying that it is a particularly good or subtle work of art, just that it is anti-racist so Ebay shouldn’t have taken it down.

          • Something

            There was NO proof of racial profiling during the entire case, or Holder would had filed hate crime charges. This is just a bunch of conjecture from people stirring the proverbial race pot. Will these types of works make race relations better? I’m betting it will be adverse. Ebay did the right thing.

          • Eric_Saunders

            I see a piece of work that links the racism of today with historical antecedents. It invokes those institutions and practices which I must oppose if I support human rights. Do you support racial profiling, police brutality, the KKK, or the Confederacy?

            What “case” are you talking about? No one suggests Zimmerman was in the KKK or was a policeman either, if that is what you are referring to. It is symbolism. However, if you think that he did not racially profile Martin, that is laughable and revealing… but also a non sequitur.

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