For the first time ever, Arthur Jafa’s acclaimed 2016 video work Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death will be available outside a museum or gallery. The piece will be streamed online for 48 hours this weekend, from June 26 to June 28, by 13 international art institutions, which will simultaneously show the seven-and-a-half-minute artwork on their respective websites.
Participating presenters include the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas; Glenstone Museum in Maryland; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; the Studio Museum in Harlem; Tate in London; the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice; the Julia Stoschek Collection in Berlin; and Luma Arles in France and Luma Westbau in Zürich.
Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death shows a montage of historical and original footage, set to Kanye West’s song “Ultralight Beam,” that is focused on the experiences of Black Americans. The work topped a listing of the most important artworks of the 2010s compiled by the editors of ARTnews.
“I suspected Black people were gonna be moved by it, but I have to say, the most unexpected thing has been how strongly white folks, or nonblack people, have been moved by it,” Jafa told ARTnews in 2018. “I mean, I don’t get to sit back and be the arbiter of whose response to it is legitimate or not, not at all, but it has been surprising.”
Stephanie Stebich, director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, said in a statement that the Smithsonian and the Hirshhorn “believe it is necessary to acknowledge the ongoing violence and racial inequality faced by Black Americans.”
“Learning from Arthur Jafa’s powerful artwork is one way to do so,” Stebich added. “We acknowledge that sharing art is not enough to effect social change. At the same time, we believe artists’ insights into complex histories and lived experiences are meaningful and motivating.”
Since it debuted at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York, Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death has been shown at art institutions around the world. Editions of the work have been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in New York, MOCA Los Angeles, the High Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Hirshhorn, and other museums.