This anti-war mural by the Italian street artist Blu on MOCA’s north wall was painted over by order of museum director Jeffrey Deitch (Photo by Casey Caplowe, courtesy Unurth)

The Blu mural controversy at MOCA is more than just another case of art world censorship. It is proof positive that street art exhibitions in the museum are inherently flawed and full of contradictions. Jeffrey Deitch’s soon-to-be blockbuster show “Art in the Streets” and the whitewashed wall mural made this point as clear as day.

Deitch, the new L.A. MOCA director, launched a pre-emptive strike on a mural by the Italian street artist Blu that he had commissioned him to paint on the side of the Geffen Contemporary building. Deitch objected to the content of the mural ā€” a series of coffins draped with dollar bills instead of flags ā€” because he felt that it might upset the museum’s immediate neighbors, the Japanese-American community and the veteran community at the L.A. Veterans’ Affairs Hospital. Deitch asked Blu to repaint the wall with another image, the artist refused, and an art controversy was born.

One might expect that artists in the show would stand firmly in Blu’s corner and deride Deitch’s rash decision, but the opposite seems to be the case. Passive criticism has been tampered by a parade of artists and cultural producers who have come to the defense of Deitch arguing that “Art in the Streets” is far too important to be derailed by a mural controversy. Shepard Fairey recently stated in the Los Angeles Times, “I’m not a fan of censorship but that is why I, and many of the other artists of the show, chose to engage in street art for its democracy and lack of bureaucracy.”


Nicolas Lampert