MOCA’s ‘Art in the Streets’ exhibition brings unwanted neighborhood effect: graffiti vandalism


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While museum director Jeffrey Deitch was unveiling his ‘Art in the Streets’ exhibition Thursday at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in a preview for invited guests, the Los Angeles Police Department reported a spike in graffiti and vandalism in the museum’s Little Toyko neighborhood.

Deitch addressed the media and a crowd that included Shepard Fairey, Fab 5 Freddy and other graffiti and street artists whose works are on display in the expansive survey, which opens to the public Sunday. The press event took place in front of a Metro bus newly painted by RISK, a Los Angeles graffiti artist.


As our sister blog LA Now reports here, the LAPD has noted dozens of tags, including monikers and larger so-called bombs showing up in the last two days on several commercial buildings behind 1st Street as well dumpsters and light poles within a stone’s throw of the museum entrance.

LAPD Officer Jack Richter told LA Now, ‘We respect the rights to have an art exhibition, but we demand the security of other people’s property.’

Deitch told 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 impact 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-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, 152 N. Central Ave.



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— Sherry Stern and Mike Boehm