Date of Action: August 2021
Region: North America
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Confronting Bodies: Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Description of Artwork: A temporary, crocheted covering for Paul DiPasquale’s original sculpture of King Neptune on the boardwalk at Virginia Beach. The work was commissioned by Virginia MOCA for its exhibition “Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose.” Olek and a team of volunteers fabricated the covering by hand.
The Incident: When Olek made a last minute decision to add a gas mask to Neptune's face- an overt motif intended to provoke thought about the man-made harm done to the environment—the museum took down the artwork. Olek, who creates large-scale crocheted (and sometimes controversial) artworks, added the gas mask to drive home the message that human pollution has put our oceans and the future of the planet in jeopardy. MOCA officials claim that the addition of the aluminum and rubber gas mask, a structural base for additional crochet, was a breach of Olek’s contract, which specifies the use of environmentally friendly and recycled materials as a symbolic “testament to [the artist’s] commitment to the health of our planet's water.”
Results of Incident: Despite NCAC's attempts to help Olek and the museum reach an agreement, the temporary sculpture was not reinstated.