Haven’t Seen Arthur Jafa’s Masterpiece ‘Love Is the Message’ Yet? 15 Museums Around the World Will Now Broadcast It Free for 48 Hours Online

Jafa's work found a captive audience when it first debuted in 2016.

Installation view of
Installation view of "Arthur Jafa: Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death," at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, photo by Brian Forrest.

Fifteen arts institutions will simultaneously livestream Arthur Jafa’s poignant video work, Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death (2016) over the course of 48 hours beginning on June 26 for audiences around the world.

The effort is spearheaded by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which jointly acquired the work in 2018. Thirteen other museums that own editions of the video are also presenting the work.

When it debuted in 2016 on the heels of Donald Trump’s election victory, the searing mashup of archival images and video footage, set to Kanye West’s gospel-inflected song Ultralight Beam, immediately struck a chord with viewers.

For Jafa, the immediate and vocal embrace of Love Is the Message was suspect. His follow-up piece, The White Album, was created to confront the overwhelmingly white response that Jafa felt was performative.

Image: Installation view of Arthur Jafa, “Love is the Message, The Message is Death,” 2016 in “The Message: New Media Works” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017. Courtesy of Arthur Jafa and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/ Rome. Photo: Cathy Carver.

Speaking to curator Apsara DiQuinzio, Jafa said, “People were getting this eight-minute epiphany” that excused a deeper, more painful self-examination of race relations.

Many arts organizations are now facing a similar moment of self-examination, as they work to figure out how to redefine their missions and activities in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the weeks-long Black Lives Matter protests that have spread around the world.

For his part, Jafa said: “I am thrilled for the opportunity, finally, to have as many people as possible see Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death.

Two related discussions with Jafa will be held on Saturday, June 27, at 2 p.m. EST and Sunday, June 28, at 2 p.m. EST at www.sunhaus.us.

On Saturday, the roundtable will feature Peter L’Official, Josh Begley, Elleza Kelley, and Thomas J. Lax. On Sunday, Aria Dean, Rashaad Newsome, Isis Pickens, and Simone White will be in discussion. Both panels will be moderated by Tina Campt.

Other institutions participating in the project include the Glenstone Museum; the Dallas Museum of Art; the High Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; the Studio Museum in Harlem; the Julia Stoschek Collection; Luma Arles and Luma Westbau; the Pinault Collection; the Palazzo Grassi; the Stedelijk Museum; and the Tate.


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