Art Law Report

Exhibition Interference Shows That Public Institutions Still Struggle with First Amendment

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 23, 2016 at 12:56 PM

Use of Confederate Flag in California Painting and Klan Imagery in Massachusetts Leads to Removal of Controversial Works

Two recent interventions by public authorities to remove controversial works of art underscore that, like last year’s Leonard Peltier painting dispute, the proper application of the First Amendment remains more elusive than it should.  In California, a state law prohibiting the display of the Confederate flag led to the removal of a specific painting from an exhibition, while north of Boston at Salem State University, a painting depicting figures in Ku Klux Klan robes was shut down entirely.  Together, these examples provide a useful of what state authorities can, and cannot do with regards to messages they find offensive.  The difference is very important.

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Topics: Ku Klux Klan, The Boston Globe, Confederate Flag, First Amendment, Leonard Peltier, Salem State University, Timothy Desmond, Civil War, Garry Harley, Fresno, State of the Union

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About the Blog


The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities. It is authored by Nicholas M. O'Donnell, partner in our Art & Museum Law Practice.

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

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