MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch has finally broken his silence and spoken to the Los Angeles Times over the recent whitewashing of the Blu wall commissioned for the upcoming Art in the Streets exhibition, which will be the first major US museum show featuring street art.

He explains:

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.

That sounds like a false parallel. Lung cancer and veterans? I think veterans are more sensitive to the abuse of soldiers in wars based on lies and a neocon agenda (i.e. the Iraq War) than anyone, so I don’t think this is a correct comparison. I would like to know why his staff couldn’t provide this statement? Does he not trust them? How about the other curators involved in the exhibition? Do they not agree? Is Deitch the only curator?

Blu mural controversy aside, I am more afraid of what street art blogger (Wooster Collective), curator, and collector, Marc Schiller suggested by tweet today:

@RemiRough If MOCA is just a US version of the Tate show (ie safe) it’ll be a HUGE mistake on Deitch’s part. cc/ @scotinoz @hragv @vandalogless than a minute ago via web

If that’s the case then I’m afraid the MOCA show will be doomed and dull. Let’s hope it’s not. As one tweeter (@VickiRaisens) suggested:

I am capable of curating my own life/thoughts..let me have a chance to love/hate/be moved/or not please..@hragv @mocalosangelesless than a minute ago via web

In other words, isn’t art about me being able to decide what moves me and touches me? We no longer have that choice.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

8 replies on “Deitch Breaks Silence On Blu Whitewash”

  1. Agree with Vicki on this. Most people seem to be assuming this was a military themed mural, and that’s very possible but for me the imagery could equally apply to healthcare…especially here in England where treatment is rationed according to a pre-set government criteria, and as such, an economic value is effectively assigned to each human life.

    Or perhaps the people in the coffins were capitalist ideologues who had spent their whole lives in the pursuit of money, and therefore their commemoration with the dollar flag symbolises the ultimate futility of materialism.

  2. I find this interesting:”isn’t art about me being able to decide what moves me and touches me?”

    It is, but in a museum setting the curator always has the final say. In this case we are seeing something we did not expect from Dietch – a bit of safety, or worse – cowardice.

    But if we believe him that he took this down because he wanted to be “a good neighbor” then that’s probably what it is. I will say as of now, Dietch has always been very forthcoming about his actions and intentions while he was in NYC, is there a reason to think that has stopped now?

    For the moment I’m going to err on safety and the realization that as a new director Dietch will need some local people on his side if more ambitious projects present themselves in the future. This is really not the artwork he wants to be known as confronting the community with – at least not yet.

    It’s a social decision. and by social, I mean purely political.

    One of the reasons why a Director would be the one speaking on such a matter would be to have no question about what was meant in the statement, but to also understand (unspoken) that since he spoke on it once – you probably won’t get a follow up from him.

    As far as the artwork itself, it seems a bit trite and an image I’ve seen repeated in editorial cortoon and photographs almost my whole life. I know others may disagree and that’s fine too.

    1. Great comment. I love how Deitch pulls his “cred” with his gallery: I’ve worked with street artists before!!! Then man, you should’ve known what to expect. I agree that this doesn’t bode at all well for the exhibition itself.

      And if this Blu piece shows up in the catalogue? Ugh. Only if they show it buffed.

    2. Spot-on. This just isn’t a good enough work to pick a fight over – and yes, I’m just shifting from political- to subjective quality-based censorship, but we seem to be okay with that kind. It isn’t a unique voice that’s now going to go unheard. I think a lot of the outrage here needs to be directed back to the Smithsonian story.

      I don’t think we should believe Deitch’s show is going to be any less political than we believed it would be a week ago; I mean, it’s not as though Deitch Projects was a hotbed of political controversy.

  3. We dont have the freedom to choose in teh art world now. Contemporary art has its extreme biases, with little factual foundation, and the museo/academic/gallery complex supports it completely. Where are other voices/ Perhaps teh folk and craft museums, which are belittled as outsider or folk artist. which all true creative artists actualy are and were, few ever graduated from an art academy. And conetempt museums oNLy show those with MFAs, those brainwashed into myopic and Palovian trained obedience to irrelevancy. It is just absurdist entertainment for teh rich patrons and therapy for the artistes. How about arts NOT of this adolexcent ilk? Life ifs far more complex, art is finding the commonalities and essentials to being human in our world. this aint it. It is fashion, entertainment, the opposite of the highest common denominator, art being its visual manifestation.

    Save the spiritual Watts Towers, tear down the decadent Ivories

    1. Just going for the low-hanging fruit, here: “highest common denominator” makes absolutely no sense, mathematically. Also, the opposite of “highest” is “lowest”.

      Not going to argue that art isn’t fashion/entertainment/an enormous tower of tautologies built to provide conversation topics for the rich, but that’s been the state of mainstream Western visual art for a few thousand years – it’s not anything about Contemporary Art in particular or anything that’s changed ‘now’. Folk Art exists just as it has always existed – I mean, that’s the point, right? – and nothing about the Contemporary art world is doing it any harm. I’m sorry on behalf of all of us in the art world that we’re not actively setting aside the system we’ve chosen to join and putting our infrastructure to work making your favorite potter rich and famous.

      (Also, I’m not sure how this is relevant)

  4. Deitch was probably terrified of a potential backlash by right wing media and the whole thing developing into a national shitstorm about ‘undermining the troops’ in which he was forced to resign.

  5. Shame on Deitch. Craven behavior should not be condoned
    and he should resign. Military industrial profit on the backs of dead
    soldiers is not even a particularly controversial concept.

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