A New York Gallery Owner Says He Destroyed Six Paintings Over a Controversy Regarding Their Depiction of Native American Symbols

The paintings depicted the murders of Native Americans that took place in Oklahoma from the 1910s through the 1930s.

Black Wall Street Gallery owner Ricco Wright. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

A New York gallery has taken down an exhibition of paintings—which the gallery owner says he will now destroy—after a controversy erupted over an artist’s use of culturally sensitive symbols.

The show, titled “Wolfsbane and the Flower Moon,” featured six paintings by artist Charica Daugherty about the mass murders of Osage peoples that took place in Oklahoma from the 1910s through the 1930s.

The exhibition, which opened July 15 at Black Wall Street Gallery and was closed two days later, featured works that depicted dream catchers and deceased Native Americans in the nude.

In a statement shared on social media on July 17, the gallery’s owner, Ricco Wright, apologized to the Osage Nation for the exhibition, saying that all images and information about the show had been removed from the gallery’s website, social media accounts, and physical space.

“In the name of conciliation, healing, unity, and love, I’ve decided to close the exhibition, effective immediately,” Wright wrote in the statement. “I should have reached out to the Osage nation before even attempting to present art regarding your history. I sincerely apologize.” 

Neither Ricco nor Daugherty responded to Artnet News’s requests for comment.

In the post, Wright said he planned to donate 100 percent of the profits from the show to a resource center for indigenous women, but later claimed that none of the works had been sold. 

The following day, he published another statement saying that all six works would be cut into “hundreds of pieces so that none are recognizable.” 

“We understand that intention is one thing and impact is another,” he wrote. “Just because our intention was to educate the public on the Osage murders… doesn’t mean that the impact of how we did it wasn’t felt.”  

In June, the Black Wall Street gallery, which was originally founded in Tulsa, was repeatedly vandalized in what was widely assumed to be a hate crime. However, earlier this week, police announced that suspect William Robertson claimed that he defaced the storefront because he believed that Wright was having an affair with his wife, an accusation the gallery owner denied to the New York Post.

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