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How much was street artist Blu paid for whitewashed MOCA mural? [Updated]

December 18, 2010 |  8:00 am

How much does a street artist command these days for, say, a large-scale mural on the exterior wall of a major metropolitan museum? The Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, to be specific.

Blu mural

By now the much-talked-about “mural incident” between MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch and Italian street artist Blu has a lot of people seeing red. “Censorship,” some cry, referring to Deitch’s removal of Blu’s antiwar mural on the north wall of the Geffen.  Others say it’s sensitivity, not censorship, as Deitch was concerned that the mural -- which pictured coffins covered in dollar bills -- would be offensive to some in the neighborhood, as there’s a Veterans Affairs hospital and a war memorial to Japanese-American soldiers in close proximity to the museum.

But despite all the polarized assertions, one question has lingered. Did Blu get paid for the mural that MOCA commissioned -- and if so, how much?

In an e-mail to Culture Monster on Friday, Deitch clarified the situation. 

The agreed-upon fee was “10,000 euros,” Deitch said.  That translates to about $13,100. 

“I would not normally disclose this, but since Blu brought up the fee, it is best to be transparent,”  Deitch wrote.

Deitch was referring to an e-mail exchange between Blu and graffiti photographer Henry Chalfant that was posted Friday on the New York art blog hyperallergic.com. In the e-mail, Blu wrote that he hadn’t yet been paid for the now-whitewashed mural. Deitch said that’s not true. 

"The wire transfer payment was sent to Blu yesterday, immediately after I received his invoice and wire instructions,” Deitch said. “His fee was paid by me personally, not by the museum. There was never any question as to whether or not Blu would be paid his agreed-upon fee."

Despite their differences, Deitch said he remains “a strong supporter of [Blu’s] work.”

[For the record: An earlier version of this story miscalculated the dollars to $7,582. The story also referred to Japanese-American soldiers as Japanese soldiers.]

--Deborah Vankin


Photo: Graffiti artist Blu paints an antiwar mural on the wall of MOCA's Geffen Contemporary downtown; Credit: Justin T. Ho/For the Los Angeles Times  


DeitchHow Blu sees the MOCA mural episode

Museum of Contemporary Art commissions, then paints over, mural

Blu says MOCA's removal of his mural amounts to censorship

Anonymous street artist puts up mural condemning MOCA director

MOCA's mural mess

Comments () | Archives (16)

Nice digging. Just an fyi, 10,000 euros is probably closer to $13,000.

Deitch, knew what was going up, but he receives heat on it. Furthermore, it was not his money, so why not over pay.

So, it sounds as though the mural was done for expenses. RT flight to Europe, Hotel, Local transportation, Cherry picker ans Paint with supplies.

i'd rather deitch use his own expenses to pay for a one way flight back to ny. punk.

The one unanswered question: who is the curator for this show and did they know about blu's mural?

Was the contract between blu and moca or blu and deitch?

So, so many unanswered questions that relate to the 501c3 status of this institution? Is it a 501c3 if the director pays artists to show their work? Did the staff or board know about this situation? Is Deitch acting on his own in commissioning this mural? Is this situation connected to the departure of senior staff at the museum? Why have we not heard from ANY curators about this situation? Is Deitch a director but a curator of this particular show?

Very odd indeed.

Does "his fee was paid by me personally, not by the museum" mean that Deitch handled the museum's check personally or that he paid with his own money? If so, did he pay to have the mural erased?

I'm sure when negotiating the price the museum pled poverty - "We can't pay you much but you can do anything you want!"

I agree with Realitycheck, it looks like Blue did this at cost. That is a giant wall and six days with no oversight....really?

It's possible that Deitch is just the messenger on this. The wall can be seen from the offices of DHS, FBI, and CIA offices in LA.

I am amongst the many that are baffled and dismayed by the painting over the mural, and since I work at the Japanese American National Museum next door, I was lucky enough to watch the mural go up in stages day by day. The final reveal of the dollars draped over the coffins was as real as it gets, and in my personal opinion, hit the nail squarely on the head.

However, I wanted to point out a very common error that is still widely in use in the media, and that is the misunderstanding between Japanese and Japanese Americans. The nearby memorial is dedicated to the American soldiers of Japanese ancestry (the 100th/442nd regimental combat team) who fought in WWII despite the fact that the entire west coast population of Japanese, both alien and citizen, were unconstitutionally detained due to their race. I wouldn't want anyone reading these posts to erroneously believe that there is a memorial downtown for Japanese soldiers. I do not know if the memorial was at all connected to the mural whitewash.

"Despite their differences, Deitch said he remains 'a strong supporter of [Blu’s] work.'"

Except, of course, for the one that he destroyed.

Otherwise? Big fan. Big.

This blog is almost as depressing as the censorship , and the mural could almost been about how art is being killed by people like you and an obsesion about money. You should be ashamed of yourself as your just reinfrocing the stereotype that amrica is an land of philistines only concerned about the crude economics.

"Crying" censorship (really - those crybaby free speech fanatics!) and claiming sensitivity are NOT polarized assertions. Censorship is the suppression of speech or ideas considered disagreeable, offensive or otherwise objectionable. People censor for various reasons - and being "sensitive" to the feelings of others is often one of those reasons. Being a private institution LA MOCA can legally censor as mush as it wants, but, please, let's call Jeffrey Deitch's action what it is: censorship. Where disagreement appears is when we begin discussing Deitch's reasons for covering the piece: We may sympathize with his motivations or we may disagree that the possibility that a political mural may offend someone should be reason to whitewash it.

A common occurrence at any non-profit AKA museum, but, I have a feeling that this is a political move from within, MOCA currently has six officers in their Board along with 42 very wealthy philanthropic movers and shakers. One thing I would suggest to this institution, is to consider perhaps changing their online page title, as it currently reads The Artist’s Museum.

this gets more political by the day. There are a number of 'recognized' artists on the MOCA board--their silence is loud indeed. They should all resign immediately.

In 50 years, MOCA will have the Getty carefully expose the mural and build a protective shelter and viewing platform to better help the public understand early 21st century censorship.

A white wall is about as interesting as the inside of the museum and its subpar collection.

Who didn't see this circus coming with Deitchbag?


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