Radical Graffiti Chic

Sponsored by L.A.’s aristocracy, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s new show celebrates vandalism.

Heather Mac Donald

Some call it art: the 4th Street Bridge in Los Angeles, a city-designated monument defaced by graffiti.

David McNew/Getty Images

Some call it art: the 4th Street Bridge in Los Angeles, a city-designated monument defaced by graffiti.

Drive behind the Geffen Contemporary, an art museum in downtown Los Angeles, and you will notice that it has painted over the graffiti scrawled on its back wall. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be surprising; the Geffen’s neighbors also maintain constant vigilance against graffiti vandalism. But beginning in April, the Geffen—a satellite of L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art—will host what MOCA proudly bills as America’s first major museum survey of “street art,” a euphemism for graffiti. Graffiti, it turns out, is something that MOCA celebrates only on other people’s property, not on its own.

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