Larry Mantle |

MOCA's whitewashing of a new mural has generated a wide range of responses

In a Los Angeles Times article written by Jori Finkel, Museum of Contemporary Art Director Jeffrey Deitch decided to have the mural covered after seeing it half-finished on the north exterior wall of the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo. 

MOCA commissioned the mural from the Italian artist known as Blu for its upcoming “Art in the Streets” exhibition.  However, Deitch told the Times that he returned from a business trip to Miami to find Blue painting a mural of military-style coffins draped with oversized dollar bills.  Deitch and Blu apparently hadn’t talked through the content of the mural.  Deitch says he was concerned that the artwork was insensitive, given the adjacent “Go for Broke” monument honoring Japanese-American soldiers.

Deitch told the Times he instructed Blu to finish the mural, photographed it for the exhibition catalogue, and then had it whitewashed.  Deitch said he made the decision immediately after seeing the unfinished work, without having heard criticism from neighbors.

The MOCA Director defended his professional record as embracing protest art, but said his job as a museum director includes the need to be sensitive to the community.

Certainly MOCA has plenty of work in its permanent collection that would be considered political protest, and that might offend some audiences.  It’s hard to imagine a museum of contemporary art that wouldn’t be exhibiting numerous works that are anti-war, anti-government, and anti-capitalist.  What would be shocking is an exhibition of pro-war, pro-government, pro-capitalist art.  That would be truly controversial.

Tuesday morning on AirTalk, we debated Deitch’s decision.  I’d like to know what you think.  Once MOCA commissioned the work, should it have accepted whatever the artist created?  Was it likely the mural would’ve been hurtful to those in the immediate area?  Is the mural’s message a thought-provoking one, or a cliché?