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If you thought the march of street art into the American museum world was going to be easy, think again. As LA’s MOCA museum is gearing up for their much trumpeted Art in the Street exhibition that will take place next year and feature lots and lots of street art, yesterday the Museum that commissioned internationally renowned Italian street artist Blu to paint a mural on a nearby wall whitewashed the massive work within 24 hours.

The work, which depicted rows of coffins draped in US dollar bills, disappeared so quickly that people are wondering why.

GOOD Magazine asks, “Who’s to Blame for Erasing Blu’s MOCA Mural?“:

So what gives? Was the mural too politically charged for other members of the MOCA team? What would that mean for [Jeffrey] Deitch’s purported sea change? If a blanket anti-war (or anti-death industry?) statement is too controversial for MOCA, what can we look forward to this spring?

Los Angeles Downtown News did some digging and the usual suspects (a nearby Veterans administration facility and veteran organizations) are saying they didn’t complain to the museum. So far MOCA has been mum about the issue.

Unurth has the best photos of the mural and its cover up.

Image caption: Blu’s MOCA mural being whitewashed (via Unurth, image by Casey Caplowe, and used with permission)

Hat tip @vickiraisens

UPDATE: MOCA has sent out a response.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

15 replies on “Mural Too Controversial for LA’s MOCA? [UPDATED]”

    1. Then why aren’t they commenting on it? Even if you think this mural is hideous, it certainly isn’t the first hideous thing that MOCA ever exhibited and you’d think they would leave it up for a while.

    2. There’s really no point in impugning the drawing quality of the mural. For one, it’s incredibly difficult to draw with any clarity/readability on such a huge scale, it necessitates some simplification. And have you seen the close ups? Those dollars are immaculate.

      It’s a fantastic mural that shouldn’t have been buffed. Another case of museum censorship?

  1. this mural is the absolute best image I can imagine for what’s going on in this country economically right now. they look like casualties in a class-war.

  2. It may not be really great art from a technical standpoint, but when has that ever kept anything out of museums? I guess LA MOCA can only handle art that is safe… and doesn’t baldly tell the absolute truth about so much of our society so simply.

  3. justin wood, your an idiot and probably have no talent to not appreciate the scale of blu’s talent

  4. This is also a museum-commissioned piece. Who commissions and enormous mural, (probably) green lights the subject matter, has the artist put it up, and then proceeds to buff the whole thing? Even if it’s a “bad work,” that’s no reason to destroy it, which is what this amounts to. This is just so wrong.

  5. The government has an equation that stipulates an economic value on humans at different ages, but we can’t talk about it? You can gear medication ads for gender and age specific audiences that are aimed at preserving a fear of mortality, but you can talk about it? We can glamorize war, but cant talk about the real deficit created by it?

  6. or maybe Mr Deitch knows exactly what he’s doing in depicting the full life cycle of a street art piece in sped-up time. and the publicity, or celebrity, don’t hurt neither.

    1. As a publicity stunt these seems kind of lacking… I mean they buffed it almost as soon as it was up. It seems like they either got scared of being offensive or ran into some administrative/bureaucratic tangle up. Either way, bad for blu

  7. Am thinking more about this Blu thing, and no matter what happened (a board member encouraged them to pull it, a community group pressured them, or another unknown reason) – this is really unfortunate for the artist. Is it good publicity for him? Sure. But that’s not the point, it shouldn’t have happened.

    It’s the museum’s responsibility to stand behind the artist’s work THEY commissioned.

    So when a museum takes a street artist and commissions a public work, suddenly the rules change. Does this now become “public art”? But Blu isn’t a public artist, it’s two different worlds. A museum can’t expect a street artist to suddenly become politically correct. It’s an effing oxymoron.

    Public art is often produced by committee. It goes through many channels before it’s approved, and professional public art artists share similar uphill battles as architects. Sometimes it takes years to approve, and sometimes artists make adjustments to the work to please community boards, etc. (often physical changes). But directors who specialize in public art fight really hard to protect the artist’s content. That is part of their job. Did MOCA not approve his idea before it went up? Why didn’t Deitch stand up for Blu after they stupidly discovered the location wasn’t PC? Any competent public art org. would have scoped out the location prior to production, with either full approval of local organizations or at least the willingness to defend it to the neighbors after it’s produced – so the art remains.

    This just makes MOCA look like they don’t know what they’re doing… and then when controversy arises, they erase the art and the artist pays the price. I hope Baldessari, Kruger and Ruscha are giving them hell. #MOCAfail

  8. The art world speculators and the Wall Street speculators are one and the same. Both worlds are racketeering enterprises. Both markets revolve around mercantile speculators who like to inflate the value of objects in order to make money. They trade between themselves in order to artificially increase the value of particular artworks they’ve invested in. They make money either by laying bets or by creating inflation, not by producing goods. They make money, not wealth. Wealth involves value. There is no inherent value in money. It’s all poker to them.

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