Clear Channel Outdoor, a national advertising company, reneged on its deal to install a billboard of a mural depicting the death of George Floyd in downtown Minneapolis. The billboard was slated for installment on January 11, 2021, at 1601 Hennepin Avenue South, which is across the street from the Basilica of St. Mary and the Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
According to the artist Donald Perlis, he received an email from the national advertising company a few days ago saying they would not honor the signed contract to put up the billboard—though it had already been paid to do so—because “they don’t accept depictions of acts of violence.”
“I tried to explain to them that there was no blood or guns, but they would not listen to me,” Perlis said.
The proposed billboard image was based on “FLOYD,” an original painting by Perlis that depicts three Minneapolis cops leaning on a prostrate Floyd with one cop (apparently former officer Derek Chauvin) with his knee on his neck. The proposed billboard also includes an MLK quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The artwork—with a different quote by the Dalai Lama—had already gone up on a billboard in October in Times Square, in New York City, and a replica of the Minneapolis billboard is scheduled for installment in Atlanta (12/28/20) and Los Angeles (1/8/21).
“The crucifixion is seen throughout the world. The violent and tortured death of Jesus Christ is depicted in every art museum, every church, every Christian institution in the world. Are they rejecting the martyrdom of George Floyd because he was a Black man?” Perlis asked. “And George Floyd was a martyr. This is censorship at its worst.”
The billboards have all been arranged by the George Floyd Justice Billboard Committee, a group of New York-based artists who created the billboards in hopes of raising awareness and creating dialogue about human rights issues.
Corinne Basabe, chairwoman of the committee said part of what motivated her work with the is she fears that the memory of what happened to Floyd is fading. Basabe and the committee say they plan on exploring other options for putting up the billboard in Minneapolis.
“We had been communicating with Clear Channel since November 16 and they were aware of what the drawing looked like, because they had been sent the Times Square billboard,” Perlis explained. “I was shocked when they all of a sudden pulled the rug out from under us.”