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Warhol Foundation Urges University of Kansas to Restore Censored Artwork

Photo of Josephine Meckseper Flag
Josephine Meckseper, Untitled (Flag 2). Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of Creative Time.

Artwork was removed under pressure from Kansas Governor and Secretary of State

In a letter sent today, Joel Wachs, President of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, strongly urged Chancellor Douglas A. Girod and Interim Provost Carl W. Lejuez at the University of Kansas to return Josephine Meckseper’s Untitled (Flag 2) to its original outdoor location on campus where it was removed after demands from Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Part of Creative Time’s Pledges of Allegiance series, Meckseper’s work depicts an abstracted United States in two parts on a printed graphic of the American flag. The work was originally installed on a flag pole that was erected specifically for this exhibit on July 3, 2018 and then was taken down on July 11, 2018 and moved inside the Spencer Museum of Art, the university’s art museum.

The Foundation has made substantial grants to the Spencer Museum of Art and Creative Time as well as the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). The NCAC issued a joint letter with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas on July 16, 2018 that expressed similar sentiments. Full text of Wachs’ letter is below.

Dear Chancellor Girod and Interim Provost Lejuez,

As the President of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, I write you today to strongly urge you to return Josephine Meckseper’s artwork, Untitled (Flag 2) to its original site on the University of Kansas campus. We stand with the National Coalition Against Censorship, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas in our belief that it is crucial that the work be seen as the artist intended and not be censored as a result of political pressure.

The Warhol Foundation’s mission is to advance the visual arts and to support freedom of artistic expression as an essential part of an open and enlightened democracy. The Foundation pursues this goal through grants to nonprofits that value and support artists who produce challenging work – work that often sparks politically fraught conversations. In addition to its longstanding relationship with the National Coalition Against Censorship and Creative Time, which organized the Pledges of Allegiance series, the Foundation has also made substantial grants to the Spencer Museum of Art for its exhibition program and for its participation in our Regional Re-granting Initiative (along with Kansas City-based Charlotte Street Foundation). We respect the museum’s position as a prominent platform for artistic voices within a major research university, and appreciate its support of Meckseper’s work and the thoughtful and engaging discussions it has provoked. However, restoring the work to its original location is imperative and we would further suggest that it remain displayed through the fall semester so that students coming to campus can see and discuss it.

Artists play a unique role in our culture, igniting through their work difficult, but necessary, conversations that promote empathy and propel social change. These voices must not be silenced by those who find them threatening or distasteful.

Sincerely,
Joel Wachs
President
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

ABOUT THE ANDY WARHOL FOUNDATION FOR THE VISUAL ARTS: In accordance with Andy Warhol’s will, the mission of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is the advancement of the visual arts. The Foundation manages an innovative and flexible grants program while also preserving Warhol’s legacy through creative and responsible licensing policies and extensive scholarly research for ongoing catalogues raisonnés projects. To date, the Foundation has given over $200 million in cash grants to over 1,000 arts organizations in 49 states and abroad and has donated 52,786 works of art to 322 institutions worldwide. More information about the Foundation is available at warholfoundation.org/.