Heard on the Hill

Ferguson Painting Removal is ‘Closed Matter’

A vote uphold the ruling that the controversial painting was a violation

The controversial painting by Missouri student David Pulphus that depicts police as animals probably won’t be going back up in the tunnel connecting the U.S. Capitol to the Cannon House Office building. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Office Building Commission has supported a decision by the Architect of the Capitol to take down a controversial painting that depicted police as animals.

The painting by student David Pulphus was inspired by the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. It was part of the annual Capitol high school art competition.

“This is now a closed matter,” a spox in Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s office said in a statement on Friday following the commission’s vote.

[Ferguson Painting Coming Down Again]

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi requested on Jan. 17 that the commission hold a vote when the painting was taken off the wall. 

“Regretfully, the HOBC voted two-to-one to uphold the Architect’s decision, with Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy voting to uphold the Architect’s decision, while I voted against upholding the Architect’s decision,” she wrote in a letter to the painting’s sponsor, Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., on Friday.

Ryan, Pelosi and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy make up the the commission.

The Architect of the Capitol announced on  Jan. 13 it would take the painting down, shortly after Ryan called for it to be removed.

[Ryan Calls Ferguson Painting ‘Disgusting’]

The  Architect of the Capitol relied on a policy that reads: “Artwork must adhere to the policy of the House Office Building Commission. In accordance with this policy, exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature are not allowed.”

[Controversial Ferguson Painting Removed From Display for Third Time]

In her letter on Friday, Pelosi cites three other paintings in the art competition that “arguably show ‘subjects of contemporary political controversy.’”

She mentioned  a painting showing the American flag with a pair of Converse sneakers on top of it, another of a bleeding immigrant with a black eye and a  portrait of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The Ferguson-inspired painting was taken down by four Republican members of Congress three times over a single week. Each time, it ended up in Clay’s office, whose district includes Ferguson.

“It was embarrassing to the House of Representatives for several members to physically remove the painting themselves,” Pelosi wrote to Clay on Friday.

Clay has consistently defended Pulphus, who was a high school student in Clay’s district when he submitted his work to the contest. He is now attending college in Chicago.

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