Indianapolis Airport Authority Censors Justin Bieber Artwork

Tré Reising, Live, Love, Laugh, Laugh Until You Cry. Photo: Tré Reising.
Tré Reising, <em>#Belieb</em>. Photo: Tré Reising, via Instagram.

Tré Reising, #Belieb.
Photo: Tré Reising, via Instagram.

Indianapolis Airport welcomed a new sculpture this week, a quartet of glittering emojis from Brooklyn-based artist Tré Reising. The piece replaces his earlier Justin Bieber-themed artwork, nixed over the airport’s fear that the pop star’s legal troubles might cause some to consider the piece offensive.

The straightforwardly titled #Belieb, a multicolored, sparkling message of support for Bieber, written in the cheerful-yet-maligned Comic Sans typeface, was created by Reising for the Indianapolis Airport Authority’s art program.

“I think he is an interesting cultural phenomenon because everyone is obsessed with him whether they like him or not,” Reising told the Indianapolis Monthly back in February, admitting he knew very little about the singer. “My ultimate goal was that it would become an Instagram-framed–ready piece that would fit well into the cropping of Instagram and become traded and shared as a meme.”

Though it’s impossible to tell what will gain traction on the web, it seems reasonable to expect that #Belieb could have gone viral. Reising’s attempt to cash in on the singer’s rabid fans, self-proclaimed “Beliebers,” didn’t have a chance to succeed, however, as its three-month run was preemptively cancelled in February. The decision came on the heels of various run-ins with the law on the part of the former child star, including allegedly drag racing and egging a neighbor’s house.

Tré Reising, Live, Love, Laugh, Laugh Until You Cry. Photo: Tré Reising.

Tré Reising, Live, Love, Laugh, Laugh Until You Cry.
Photo: Tré Reising.


Airport spokesperson Carlo Bertolini told Nuvo the authority “did not think it was ideal to focus so specifically on one particular celebrity, given recent news events.” Reising, who often draws on rappers for inspiration, had been expected to create a piece that would “blend hip-hop culture with fine art.” The artist was reimbursed for his work and travel expenses, and Bertolini admitted that the airport was to “blame for some of the miscommunication.”

As reported by the blog Young Space, a replacement artwork, Live, Love, Laugh, Laugh Until You Cry, was installed Monday. Featuring a similarly glittery aesthetic, the new piece also draws on the internet and pop culture for inspiration, featuring a series of familar emoji faces (see “Multi-Ethnic Emojis Update is About to Up Your Emoji Art Game” and “Holy Emojis! Artist Seeks $25,000 to Translate Bible into Emojis“), the tiny graphics blown up into large-scale sculptures alá Nick Offerman’s handcrafted wooden emojis. It may not inspire Beliebers, but it’s just as Instagram-ready.

“Censored or not,” Reising told Indiapolis Monthly, “it gave me the opportunity to make a new, better artwork for the public realm.”

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