March 2020: Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland cancelled the exhibition because of “troubling community response”, reported Cleveland.com.
Visual artist Shaun Leonardo created the exhibition “The Breath of Empty Space”, which depicts the murders of African American and Latino men at the hands of law enforcement officers.
“I am devastated that my work is being called up in response to more black death. I am so tired. We are so tired. And I want my work to become irrelevant,” said Leonardo in his statement published on Instagram.
The MOCA Cleveland issued an official apology to the artist admitting that they made a mistake.
The apology statement says that the cancellation had to do with the feedback from the activist community, which claims that the exhibition “could stir trauma, leading to pain and harm”. The MOCA Cleveland further acknowledges that there should have been a space for dialogue and debate about the feedback with Leonardo.
Freemuse’s State of Artistic Freedom 2020 report illustrates how artworks criticising the USA government were subjected to harassment or faced censorship in 2019.