Reactor

MOCA’s Delayed Response to Blu Mural Removal [UPDATE 2]

by Hrag Vartanian on December 10, 2010

A detail of the whitewashed Blu mural (via Unurth, image by Casey Caplowe)

The Los Angeles-based Museum of Contemporary Art has emailed their version of why the Blu mural came down to Vandalog, the street art blog:

The Geffen Contemporary building is located on a special, historic site. Directly in front the north wall is the Go For Broke monument, which commemorates the heroic roles of Japanese American soldiers, who served in Europe and the Pacific during World War II, and opposite the wall is the LA Veterans’ Affairs Hospital. The museum’s director explained to Blu that in this context, where MOCA is a guest among this historic Japanese American community, the work was inappropriate.

I find this a little odd but not for the text. I’ve been calling and emailing all day — as has another art blogger who has publicly said so — and there was no answer or response. Then, all of a sudden they produce this? If that was the case then why wasn’t this answer available immediately? The statement does say that the museum director (Jeffrey Deitch) was the one who explained it to the artist, so that is new information, but was it ultimately his decision to take it down? As the man in charge, probably, I can’t imagine he wasn’t involved in the final decision.

Was there a complaint we don’t know about? According to the LA Downtown News there wasn’t, not from the VA or from the National Go For Broke Education Center, both of which are mentioned in the statement.

I personally think that the Japanese American community, many of whom were placed in internment camps during the Second World War by America — and know very well what it means to have a conflicted and complex relationship with America and the military — would’ve understood this mural and learned to love it.

Blu is slated to return to LA and paint another mural for MOCA. Hopefully he won’t pull any punches just because this is take two.

Read the whole email response on Vandalog.

UPDATED: I just received the following message on Saturday morning (NY time) from Blu via email about the incident:

just the pure facts

  1. blu is invited to moca to do a mural
  2. the mural is done
  3. moca decide to erase the mural
  4. moca workers erase the mural the day after

the photos are already public
everyone will find their own conclusions

I honestly don’t know what to make of this.

UPDATE 2: The LA-based street art publication Jetset Graffiti corrected my statement, which I heard from a source and not from the artist, that Blu will return to LA to paint another mural. According to his comment on this post [READ #4 BELOW], that is NOT true:

I originally tipped off LA Downtown News that this was happening. Here’s my commentary and the official MOCA response below. Blu told me that he will not be back to LA before the museum show opens. In fact, he adjusted his schedule to go out of his way to come out here and paint this. It was the only time he had to do this before the show opens. I’m guessing that means he will not accept their invitation and compromise his artistic integrity. Good for Blu to stand up to the museum. I guess they didn’t give him much chance, did they?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/terryward7 Terry Ward

    waaa ha ha. the museum is now “whitewashing” its actual whitewashing.

    (oops now my art will never get to hang there. ah well.)

  • http://twitter.com/chaykak Kyle Chayka

    Why wasn’t this all cleared before Blu painted the actual mural? I thought museum bureaucracy was stronger than this. And this is their explanation after a day of saying nothing and answering no calls? A Deitch statement would be great and is necessary.

  • http://twitter.com/QUELBEAST QUEL BEAST

    what do you mean hope he wont pull any punches? is anyone believing that “inappropriate” is a valid excuse to destroy a piece of art? if deitch stands behind this does he expect to have any credibility with artists? i would never work for anyone who had a hand in this, mark my words.

  • http://twitter.com/JetSetGraffiti JetSet Graffiti

    I originally tipped off LA Downtown News that this was happening. Here’s my commentary and the official MOCA response below. I was told that he will not be back to LA before the museum show opens. It was the only time he had to do this before the show opens. I’m guessing that means he will not accept their invitation and compromise his artistic integrity. Good for Blu to stand up to the museum. I guess they didn’t give him much chance, did they?

    http://www.jetsetgraffiti.com/2010/12/10/moca-response-to-blu-mural-censorship/

    Also, here’s the video of the white-washing that we filmed.

    http://www.jetsetgraffiti.com/2010/12/10/video-bye-bye-blu-moca-censorship-timelapse/

    Seriously messed up, and I don’t buy the museum’s excuse at all… Censorship is censorship, and you can’t paint over that fact.

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      Thank you for this.

  • Creativiste

    The New World Order takes over the art world….

  • http://www.facebook.com/art.critic Mat Gleason

    So let me get this straight – a curator makes a decision and it is censorship? Why would a curator ever want to work with BLU again? What the heck is the role of a curator? If a curator kicks you out of a show, guess what, he didn’t want you in the show. f there are 200 street artists in the show and you are street artist #201, guess what, the curator is not censoring you, he just didn’t want you in the show. Who the heck wants to work with a big baby like BLU? Keep publicizing this, ruin this artists career. Difficult actors don’t get work in Hollywood, why should it be different for difficult actors n the art world?

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      There has been no indication that the curator has been involved. The only think we know is that the museum director has been involved, i.e. Deitch. Do you have more information than has been released about this?

      Also, Blu has been very responsible for with his response, so I don’t know what you are talking about.

      • http://www.facebook.com/art.critic Mat Gleason

        Anything that implies censorship is irresponsible. Show me the actor who publicly screams CENSORSHIP when his scene gets cut from a movie by the producer and I will show you an actor who is out of work. Why is the street art scene so full of babies?

        And a question to all of you street art constitutional scholars about the first amendment: Do you street art advocates also hold the fifth amendment (the right for me to kick your little asses when you trespass on my property to tag it)? The bill of rights is not a pick and choose cafeteria.

        • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

          What are you talking about? This was a legal sanctioned mural, not an illegal one.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FYRDHHE7VVVFCIYIABNMTC37NI dfimagery.com

    I dont have any problem with themural as street art, it isnt meant to last forever, but get an immediate visceral response. It does so. Its not bad, which is a change, so why would it be covered up? Mostly because contempt art is about entertaining the wealthy, guess it wouldnt be good background for the caviar dreams of the patrons to dine by or cheerful backgrounds for photo ops. It is almost step and repeat,

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