New York City Takes Down Joseph Stalin, AKA, The Walrus


Say it ain’t so, Uncle Joe!

Taking a page from the Big Brother playbook, COOPER UNION, an art school in New York’s East Village, took down a giant copy of PICASSO’s infamous drawing of JOSEPH STALIN after the Buildings Department complained. The mustachioed dictator was part of STALIN BY PICASSO, OR PORTRAIT OF WOMAN WITH MUSTACHE, an installation by Norwegian artist LENE BERG, who is making the virtual rounds to express her discontent with the decision.

“They took it down before I even had a chance to know what was going on,” she told the NEW YORK TIMES. “In a sense, I think it’s self-censorship on their part.”

On closer review, the removal appears to have been prompted by complaints from the neighborhood’s historic Ukrainian community, which we thought moved to Queens around the same time that Comrade Joe kicked the bucket in 1953.

Our advice? Relax! Picasso’s drawing was seen as slander by French Communists, who thought that the Man of Steel looked too much like a youthful walrus.

After the jump, the official statement from Cooper Union.

“On Friday, Oct. 31, the city’s Department of Buildings — after receiving complaints about Lene Berg’s banner installation entitled “Stalin by Picasso, or Portrait of Woman with Mustache” — informed the Cooper Union that the three banners installed on the facade of the Cooper Union Foundation Building were in violation of city permit regulations and had to be removed. The Cooper Union is in the process of resubmitting permit applications to determine if the banners can be reinstalled.

In addition to this development, the Cooper Union was made aware that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor, the decimation of the Ukrainian population through imposed famine, which took place in 1932-33 under Joseph Stalin’s rule. If we are granted permits to reinstall the banners, installation will not commence until after the New York Ukrainian community’s commemoration events on Nov. 15, as a gesture of respect for our neighbors.

In the meantime, at the wish of the artist Lene Berg, the gallery component of the show — two videos and two book projects — installed in the Houghton Gallery will be closed until further notice.”