Posts Tagged ‘VARA’

Deitch Earns Wrath of local L.A. Artists

December 17, 2010

L.A. MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch is at the center of another controversy, this time being accused of “censorship” by local artists.

As part of an upcoming exhibition, the museum apparently commissioned a mural on the downtown Geffen Contemporary by graffitti artist Blu.  The work, as described in the L.A. Times, has an anti-war subject matter.  Deitch apparently ordered the destruction of the completed mural after deciding that the anti-war theme was inappropriate in the Little Tokyo location–supposedly because of its proximity to a Japanese soldier memorial and a Veterans hospital.  (If anything, it seems like a rather appropriate location to us).

In reaction to the planned destruction of the Geffen mural, an anonymous artist responded to the decision on the face of the mural itself, depicting the director as a paint-roller wielding censor.  The addition to mural, including the photo of Mr. Deitch, appears to be paper pasted onto the surface.  Whether the original artist, Blu, consented to the alteration/derivative work is unknown.

Some factions of blog-land have responded by stating that the original mural was of poor quality.  That may be, or may not, but it seems clear that the curator should have known something about the work before it was commissioned and created.  Rather, the decision to destroy it appears to be more closely linked to the content of the piece.

However, the accusations of First Amendment violations are misplaced here, as that Constitutional provision applies only to actions of the U.S.  government–not to the entities of the art industry.  The proper questions, perhaps, are whether Deitch’s decision (if completed) will violate either the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) or the California laws that protect artwork from destruction or alteration.  If either may be the case, then the artist, Blu, may have grounds for action.


CultureMonster / L.A.Times (with photos), selected sections of the California Civil Code, see especially Chapter 3, section 987; and also about VARA.