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