Artwork censored in exhibit honoring Chinese New Year

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Date: 2007

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Public Art

Artist: Jeffrey Ma

Confronting Bodies: Alhambra, California city officials, exhibit organizer Pinki Chen

Dates of Action: February, 2007

Location: Alhambra, California

Description of Artwork: Jeffrey Ma's screen prints were made in honor of the Chinese New Year and the twentieth anniversary of Andy Warhol's death. In the piece, portraits of Mao are juxtaposed with portraits of George Washington. Their faces are superimposed over piggy banks in reference to savings and wishes of good fortune that are associated with the Chinese New Year. Ma chose Washington and Mao because their faces both appear on currency.

The Incident: Jeffrey Ma's screen prints were exhibited along with about thirty other pieces honoring the Chinese New Year. The exhibit was shown in the lobby of the Alhambra City Hall. City Hall received a couple of complaints from people offended by the juxtaposition of Washington and Mao. The City Clerk who coordinates city art exhibits says the piece was taken down on the recommendation of the exhibit organizer Pinki Chen. Chen, however, says the city staff made the decision to remove the piece. The artists in the show asked the city to put the piece back up but after receiving no commitment they completely dismantled the exhibit in protest.

Results of Incident: First Amendment organizations have come to the defense of the artists and the exhibit organizer and some city officials have said removing the piece because of a couple of complaints is not correct procedure. There are, however, no plans to re-hang the exhibit.