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Taggers attacking outdoor areas near MOCA museum's 'Art in the Streets' exhibit in Little Tokyo, LAPD says [updated]



Los Angeles police expressed concern Thursday about a jump in vandalism and graffiti just before the  opening of the "Art in the Streets" exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary museum in Little Tokyo.

Over the last two days, dozens of tags, including monikers and larger so-called bombs have blighted several commercial buildings behind 1st Street as well dumpsters and light poles within a stone's throw of the museum entrance.

"In the last two weeks, we've seen an enormous amount of vandalism in the Little Tokyo area, near the MOCA entrance," said LAPD Officer Jack Richter. "We respect the rights to have an art exhibition but we demand the security of other people's property."

"As former Chief Bratton was found of saying, "if you want to be an artist, buy a canvas," Richter said.

Brian Kito, President of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Assn. and owner of the Fugetosu-do sweet shop, the oldest business in the area, said the museum has reached out to community leaders, previewing the exhibit for them, and encouraging them to contact the museum if there are any problems.

"We are welcoming people that appreciate street art but we hope they are not inspired to show off their work on the buildings outside," Kito said.

The Geffen Contemporary museum website describes "Art in the Streets" as the "first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art."

The exhibition, which opens Sunday and runs through Aug. 8, traces the development of graffiti and street art from the 1970s "to the global movement, concentrating on key cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Sao Paulo, where a unique visual language or attitude has evolved," the MOCA website says.

The exhibition will feature paintings, mixed media sculptures and interactive installations by 50 artists emphasizing Los Angeles' "role in the evolution of graffiti and street art, with special sections dedicated to seminal local movements such as cholo graffiti and Dogtown skateboard culture."

[Updated, 4:30 p.m.: Museum Director Jeffrey Deitch told our sister blog Culture Monster that MOCA anticipated that what's being billed as the first major U.S. museum exhibition on graffiti and street art could bring unwanted and unauthorized ancillary activity from "some of the young taggers who are anarchic.... It's a language of youth culture, and we can't stop it. It goes with the territory."

But in hopes of minimizing the effect on neighbors, he said, "we're making an extra effort" by instructing security guards patrolling outside the museum to keep an eye on the surrounding neighborhood as well. Deitch declined to give specifics on what that would entail.

He said that if "Art in the Streets" proves to be a strong draw — its unprecedented nature makes it hard to predict attendance — it promises to be a boon to businesses in Little Tokyo. To that end, he said, MOCA is compiling a map and directory of shops and restaurants to hand to museum visitors during the run of "Art in the Streets."

One of the show's hoped-for intangible benefits, he said, is that taggers now spraying illegally might see the exhibition and raise their sights: "We want to put out an inspirational message: 'If you harness your talent you can be in a museum some day, make a contribution and a living from it.' "

"Art in the Streets" runs Sunday through Aug. 8 at the Geffen Contemporary.]

Kito said the community welcomed the exhibit but encouraged anyone with thoughts of tagging nearby to think twice. He said that video cameras had been set up in the area to capture images of anyone committing illegal acts.

It was not immediately clear if the vandalism, which has jumped in area where it is relatively scarce, was directly connected to show, but nonetheless Richter said, "If anyone is caught doing it they are not getting a ticket they are going to jail."


Walls where street art is welcome

L.A.'s street art pioneers paint a colorful history

Veteran graffiti writer leads artists in painting mural on Geffen

--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: A show featuring street graffiti is about to open at the Geffen Contemporary museum on 1st Street. Taggers have taken the opportunity to expand the show, spreading their monikers to the walls and trashcans in a nearby alley.  Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (53)


"We are welcoming people that appreciate street art"
It's STUPID remarks like this that makes it harder to end graffiti.

This is what happens when liberal douchebags publicly proclaim that vandalism is art...that is until someone vandalizes their stuff.

These taggers are just jealous that they're not going to be in the exhibit, so... they "bomb" the area with their crappy graffiti to try and get some exposure or "street cred" for their lame tags.

What a bunch of lame-o's trying to ride the coat tails of established street artists. I'd like to see some of these taggers try to paint a mural. They wouldn't be able to because most of them can't draw and can only spray paint words. Sad really.

It's unbelievable the fact that the taggers are less than 2 blocks away from LAPD heaquarters to commit a crime.

Why not just tag the squad cars in the neighboring parking lot from MOCA

How's that sanctuary city thing going?

Oh c'mon.

Geffen glorifies graffiti with that supposed "art exhibition" of "street "art"" then complains about it?

You're part of the problem - art community...

So you put on an art show in a museum, glorifying graffiti, and don't expect it to have any influence on the taggers who come to see it?

How about an art show down on the walls of the L.A. River, instead.

Well what do they expect?...Duhhhh!!!

Graffiti is not art. It's vandalism.

The biggest mark some idiots will ever make on society is by defacing public property with childish scribbling.

A year of full-time community service cleaning up after other idiots would be fair for a first offense. For a subsequent offense... hmmmm, maybe there's something to this sharia law thing after all.

Glorify graffiti? What a STELLAR idea!


That show doesn't have some of the best street artist from LA like Swank and eyeone just to mention a few.

Simple new law - remove or smash the index finger of any tagger or shooter. Its much more difficult to fire a gun or push a spray can without that finger. Who would vote for this??

-- "As former Chief Bratton was found of saying, "if you want to be an artist, buy a canvas," Richter said.

Is that ironic, or what?

Someone should spray paint that onto the side of MOCA.

these morons who think its ok to vandalize the property of others in the name of their so-called "art" should be removed from society until they learn some manners and respect for the property of others.

Street art.


These idiots legitimize this crap and we wonder why grafitti (aka "visual terrorism") is rampant in this city.

Illegal aliens cover the city with spray paint. Thanks Mexico for sending your culture over the border!

The violent crime rate will go up in that area in the coming weeks, as well. Graffiti = vandalism = crime = criminals. That's not rocket science. Most of us have already figure it out - and that's why we don't we graffiti in our neighborhoods.

Graffiti is a crime that should be prosecuted, not celebrated.

Anyone caught doing graffiti should have their vehicle confiscated, loose their driving privileged, and be forbidden from even possessing paint and painting implements for a minimum of five years. Their status on as a graffiti vandal should be indicated on their state ID or drivers license, and available in a public database. It should be illegal to sell or supply paint or painting suppliers to these criminals.

the police are making demands? nice.

PATHETIC. I'm going to go graffiti my complex and see if that is considered art? Doubt it. How sad. What has become of this country.

Um...DUH. The art world is a sham. Fight the power.

This place is about 300 yard from the Police Headquarters Building, so how can this happen? Oh yes, I forgot, no money to pay overtime to the Officers, so they are all off on compensation days off.
ie, there are no cops working on the streets.

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