Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
     
Artnet News
5/10/99
 
     
  KELLEY CANCELED IN SEATTLE
The Seattle Art Museum has canceled a planned installation about serial murder by Los Angeles bad-boy Mike Kelley after a news report prompted protests from victims' rights groups. The Kelley work in question, Paying for Your Pleasure, is a series of 42 banners bearing portraits of historical figures and quotes about artists being exempt from social norms and morality, culminating with the display of an art work made by an actual murderer and purchased by the museum for the show.

In Chicago the piece was exhibited with a painting by John Wayne Gacy; in Los Angeles it included a painting by Los Angeles "Freeway Killer" William Bonin. The paintings typically are "the most mundane paintings in the world, like landscapes and clowns. Paying for Your Pleasure was to be included in the Seattle museum's "2000 1/2" exhibition slated for next summer.

But the museum quickly changed its plans after a sensational news report on the show was posted on May 6 on APB News, a "true crime" website that specializes in reports on missing children, serial murder and wanted fugitives. Headlined "Seattle Seeks Creative Murderer," the story by Tami Sheheri claimed that the Seattle Art Museum was searching for "a virulent killer" to make "the star" of it's forthcoming millennial show.

Is it right, the story asked, "for a publicly funded museum to glorify the artistic pretensions of a serial killer while that predator's victims fade away, forgotten as well as murdered?"

The reporter interviewed several relatives of murder victims, who expressed pain at the idea of celebrating the artistic efforts of people who had killed their children or friends. "I feel so re-victimized to have a killer's art hanging in our museum," said Jenny Wieland of the Seattle-based Students Against Violence Everywhere, whose only daughter was murdered in 1992. Pam Eakes, founder of the Seattle-based Mothers Against Violence in America (MAVIA), said the work makes celebrities out of murderers and is "insulting to victims."

Kelley, 44, defended the work as a critical investigation of violence in American society. APB News, he said, had demeaned and misrepresented Paying for Your Pleasure, depicting the work as "the glorification of crime" when in fact that is "the opposite of what it's about." (Curiously enough, the APB website is exactly the kind of cultural formation that Kelley's work examines).

In announcing the cancellation of the display, Seattle Art Museum deputy director Trevor Fairbrother said that the "notoriety and controversy" surrounding Kelley's piece would detract from the rest of the exhibition as well as the message of nonviolence that Kelley is trying to convey.