Billboard company Clear Channel Outdoor has pulled the plug on an artist’s billboard in Minneapolis depicting the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of the city’s police. The work, an oil painting by artist Donald Perlis, was set to go on view the week of January 11, 2021, just ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“The violent and tortured death of Jesus Christ is depicted in every art museum, every church, every Christian Institution in the world. Are they rejecting the martyrdom of George Floyd because he was a Black man?” Perlis said in a statement. “This is censorship at its worst.”
The project, organized by the George Floyd Justice Billboard Committee, has already seen the billboard appear in New York’s Times Square, where it was accompanied by a quote from the Dalai Lama that read, “be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” In Minneapolis, the painting was to incorporate a quote from King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Perlis, a 79-year-old artist in Brooklyn, had signed the contract and paid for the billboard when he received an email from a Clear Channel executive informing him that the image could not be displayed because it “depicts acts of violence,” according to the Associated Press.
Donald Perlis, FLOYD on a billboard design from the George Floyd Justice Billboard Committee. Clear Channel Outdoor has refused to display the design citing its violent subject matter. Courtesy of the George Floyd Justice Billboard Committee.
The painting, titled FLOYD, depicts three cops pinning the man to the ground, one pressing his knee upon his neck. In the background, another officer stands watch, preventing horrified bystanders from potentially coming to Floyd’s aid.
The shocking incident of police brutality triggered nationwide protests and a renewed surge in the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year.
“I realize in Minneapolis right now this is a hotbed issue, the city is bitterly divided,” Perlis told Artnet News. “It could be that people might think it’s too inflammatory because the trial is coming up there.”
Representatives from Clear Channel did not respond to inquiries from Artnet News.
Donald Perlis, FLOYD on a billboard in New York’s Times Square. Photo courtesy of the George Floyd Justice Billboard Committee.
The 24-by-seven-foot billboard in Minneapolis would have cost $7,470. The New York billboard went up in late October for three weeks, and versions in Atlanta and Los Angeles are slated to be installed on December 28 and January 1, respectively. (The billboard space was purchased from different companies in each city.)
The George Floyd Justice Billboard Committee, a group of New York artists dedicated to displaying FLOYD nationwide in the name of social justice and human rights, has raised close to $3,000 for the campaign on GoFundMe.
The four officers who killed Floyd are scheduled to go on trial in Minneapolis on March 8. Derek Chauvin, the officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck, has been charged with second-degree murder. The other officers face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Perlis said he is awaiting approval on a potential alternate site for his mural in Minneapolis.
“I did this as a painter because the tragedy was so moving and horrific. It struck me so deeply,” Perlis said. “We want to get the message up so people don’t forget what happened”
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