A Happy Ending? Chris Silva’s Censorship at MOCA Resolved

by Corinna Kirsch on July 24, 2012 · 7 comments Newswire

In light of the current spate of criticisms hurled at MOCA, a startling censorship incident at the museum in May brings up a new series of questions about one of the museum’s corporate sponsors. During the museum’s Bring Your Own Beamer (B.Y.O.B.) event, artist Chris Silva was told to remove his projection because it featured a Peugeot race car, a competitor to Mercedes-Benz, one of the event’s sponsors. Whoops. But now, a few months later, it appears that everything is hunky-dory between Silva and Mercedes-Benz—and Silva might get an exhibition out of it.

Here’s what went down in May: during a B.Y.O.B screening held in conjunction with Transmission L.A., an exhibition curated by Beastie Boy Mike D., Silva was irked to see that part of his projection, showing a Peugeot sports car, had been blocked. He went up to the projector and removed a postcard that had been stuck there. That set off some fury, and Felipe Lima, one of Transmission’s organizers, and two other people, one of them blinged out with a gold chain emblazoned with a Mercedes-Benz logo, came by to let Silva know that he needed to take down his work.

In an interview with HuffPo’s Mat Gleason, Silva recounted that he was told to immediately “take down what I was showing.” Silva needed to remove the piece “because someone from Mercedes corporate was ‘pissed’ about it,” he told Gleason. When he asked to talk to the company about the piece, he was advised not to because they were too upset to talk. Ouch. It’s pretty strange that Mercedes concluded a cartoony model of a racecar could interfere with their marketing, but maybe any other car is too much car for the sponsor.

Now, a few months later, it seems Silva’s grievances have been remedied. Following coverage on the Huffington Post and ArtINFO, Mercedes-Benz made a public apology, but they deny that any Mercedes-Benz staff told Silva to remove his work. It was someone else, they swear! And Silva, who has used Mercedes-Benz imagery in previous work, has been told by the automobile company that they would like “to turn this into a success story through support of [his] work.” MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch weighed in with an email apology to Silva as well.

Congrats to Silva and all, but this still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. We don’t know who confronted Silva at MOCA, but it’s still a bit dicey for Mercedes, after being called out, to propose something that sounds like what—an apology show? Not cool, even if everyone ends up getting a little publicity out of it.


Proper Cursive July 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Since Beamer = slang for BMW, as well as a projector, the name of the show could of gotten Mercedes all riled up in the first place.  Silva could’ve displayed a BMW and really stuck it to them, right?  

colorexpertsbd July 25, 2012 at 4:37 am

 I also agreed with Mr. proper.

Proper Cursive July 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm
gregorg July 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm

I just noticed the Mercedes gold chain-wearing detail in this incident. Mocoloco’s report from that party says Mike D made 25 of those necklaces for “key brand folks” from MB. Here is a picture of one of those folks, the head of Mercedes communications and, apparently, the guy running the party,


So they were involved on the ground, in the censorship. Whatever happens weeks after the show closes is just damage control.

Corinna Kirsch July 24, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Thank you!

Paddy Johnson July 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm

I’ve already passed your comment along to Chris. I’m sure he’ll be interested to see this, though of course, I’m sure it won’t be a real surprise. We’ll add an update to the post in the AM as well. 

Chris Silva July 25, 2012 at 1:22 am

Thanks Paddy! Ya, I heard the same thing gregorg. But I also did see little kids running around with them…so who knows – key people, artists, children of either…I even asked for one at one point being the car nerd and Beastie Boys fan that I am. 

Mercedes Benz and MoCA both said it was a 3rd party promotions company. I’m not naive to how happenings like this are treated, but at the same time, I can believe that. There really is no rational reason to lie about it by either party, both acknowledged responsibility when I told them that they could tell me everyone there worked for MBUSA or MoCA or a third party promotions company. All I knew is that the person who told me to take it down said they represented MBUSA and that they were wearing a gold chain with a Benz logo on it. I’m sure it has been dealt with internally from what I’ve been seeing/hearing.

However, I am glad (as an artist, and as a person on this earth) that a huge global corporation like Mercedes Benz stepped up to the plate and offered me the opportunity to support my work instead of telling me to get lost like they easily could have. MoCA unfortunately passed on that opportunity…(kinda odd given the press they have been receiving lately)…but anyhow, I wasn’t asking for money, or for anything physical really, just the chance to be inspired to make some good work from the mishap. I guess we will see what comes of it.

As for exhibiting the work, that isn’t a part of the deal from MBUSA, it is my choice to make and show the work (if that is the way it ends up). They offered to host me for a period of time and to work with some people over there to inspire some work.

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