Art Law Report

This Painting is My Speech, This Painting is Your Speech—Government Scores a Win in Capitol Painting Controversy

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 11, 2017 at 10:50 AM

A controversial painting removed from display at the U.S. Capitol will not be returning to display after the U.S. District Court denied a request for an injunction before the exhibition in question came to an end.  While the court acknowledged that St. Louis teenager David Pulphus’s Untitled #1 had been removed based on its viewpoint, it ultimately held that Pulphus was not the one “speaking,” the government was.  As such, it was free to do as it wished.  The court’s opinion carefully considered the factors that determine whether the speaker is the government or a private citizen, but as it acknowledged, the line can be hard to draw.  The opinion has implicationsfor other cases where art in public spaces stirs controversy.

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Topics: Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), First Amendment, Ferguson Missouri, St. Louis, Dave Reichert, Duncan Hunter, David Pulphus, public forum, government speech, Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill, Jr.

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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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