Skateboard Legend Steve Olson’s Art is Too Sexy for This Government Building

The obvious message was lost on some local officials.

Steve Olson, Buy Sexual, 2002.Photo courtesy the artist.
Steve Olson, Buy Sexual, 2002.
Photo courtesy the artist.

Skateboarding pioneer and artist Steve Olson’s work is too sexy for Santa Barbara, California. Well, it’s too sexy for the main lobby entrance at the Betteravia Government Center, at least.

Olson’s 2002 work, featuring the words “Buy Sexual” on top of 12 panels emblazoned with the price $69.99, will be moved to a wall near the restrooms, according to the Santa Barbara Noozhawk. It’s included in a show called “Love+Guts” that opened Monday and is scheduled to remain on view for three months. City arts commissioner John Hood curated the show.

Olson, 53, has accused Bob Nelson, an aide to Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam of censorship after he took it upon himself to remove the work on his own initiative on September 11, according to a statement by the artist. Nelson later restored it.

“The piece is commentary on how sex sells,” says Olson. “The fact that it’s a play on words probably went right over his head.”

But Nelson says that the work “is not appropriate and to many it’s offensive.”

Some county employees have reportedly complained that Olson’s piece creates a hostile work environment. On Thursday, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission decided to move it near the restrooms.

Olson’s work has been shown at venues including Nye Haus, New York; the Museum of Design, Atlanta; and in the collateral exhibition “Venice in Venice” during the 54th Venice Biennale, in 2011.

He’s an irrepressible troublemaker, and always has been. When he showed up at the gala to receive the 1979 Skateboarder of the Year award, he told told the New York Observer he was too high to give a speech. “I was so gakked out on blow. I couldn’t talk.”

Besides making art, he’s also gotten involved with acting and a clothing line, and commented to the Observer, “I’ll skateboard until I die.”

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