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ICA lobby mural gets destroyed - by design

Chiho Aoshima instructed ICA crew members to scrape down 'The Divine Gas' and slice it into tiny squares. Chiho Aoshima instructed ICA crew members to scrape down "The Divine Gas" and slice it into tiny squares. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
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November 25, 2007

For a year, "The Divine Gas," an eye-popping multicolored mural, greeted visitors walking into the new Institute of Contemporary Art. But when it was time for Chiho Aoshima's 42-foot-long work to be taken down, making room for Dave Muller's rock 'n' roll-inspired piece, the ICA's crew didn't just remove it. They destroyed it - with the artist's blessing.

In fact, Aoshima required that the ICA make sure that the remains of "The Divine Gas," a work created on a computer, printed out, and then pasted for display, be sliced into tiny squares after being scraped of the wall.

"It's a precaution on the artist's part to make sure her work is under her control and that a kind of a souvenir couldn't be taken and then presented as a piece of art," said Nicholas Baume, the ICA's chief curator.

Over two days at the end of October, ICA crew members stripped the wall and cut the pieces into squares no bigger than 4-by-4 inches. The removal and destruction had to be documented in photographs sent to Aoshima's studio.

Baume said this is the first time he's been asked to destroy an artwork. He suspects it won't be the last.

"I think this is sort of a genre that has developed as a result of the whole digital image production that makes this kind of work possible on a scale that it maybe wouldn't have been before," he said.

- GEOFF EDGERS

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