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Museum Controversies
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Museum Controversies

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  • 1. Uncovering Sensation the controversial exhibition heard around the world By Molly Labell & Richard Lopez
  • 2. Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection
    • Overview of discussion topics:
    • The Hype of Sensation: What was the exhibition and why was it controversial
    • Religion: A topic of artistic controversy
    • Media, Friend and Foe: The frenzy and Viral nature creating a world of discussion
  • 3. The Hype of Sensation Sensation Exhibition was on display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art (BMA) Oct 2 nd 1999- Jan 9 2000 The Artworks in Sensation were from the collection of Charles Saatchi, a leading collector of contemporary art. Norman Rosenthal, the Royal Academy of Arts secretary organized 110 works by 42 artists. Charles Saatchi Chris Ofili The Holy Virgin Mary Center of the controversy in New York City Damien Hirst The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) Marcus Harvey (1995) depiction of the child killer Myra Hindley Center of Controversy in London
  • 4. London Vs New York City “ a sole disregard not only for the emotional pain and trauma that would inevitably be experienced by the families of the Moors victims but also the families of any child victim.” – BBC News
    • The height of the controversy centered around The Moors murders
    • The portrait was made up of hundreds of copies of a child's handprint
    • Myra Hindley herself sent a letter from jail suggesting that her portrait be removed from the exhibition,
    Myra Hindley Portrait Jake and Dinos Chapman
    • The BBC described [Sensation] as "gory images of dismembered limbs and explicit pornography” .
    • Child mannequins with noses replaced by penises and mouths in the form of an anus.
    Jake and Dinos Chapman Zygotic acceleration, biogenetic, de-sublimated libidinal model 1995
  • 5. London Vs New York City "You don't have a right to government subsidy for desecrating somebody else's religion." –Giuliani U nlike the controversy in London which centered around the welfare of children New York City had an adverse reaction to religious connotations in Chris Ofili’s work.
    • Giuliani's Threat:
    • Unless the exhibition took down Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary the Mayor would terminate the city’s annual contribution of $7.2 million to the BMA 1/3 of their capital
    • Withhold $20 million promised for capital improvements
    • Dismiss the museums trustees
    • Reclaim the city owned building, leaving a multibillion dollar collection of art and artifacts homeless
    Religious Uproar "The idea of having so-called works of art in which people are throwing elephant dung at a picture of the Virgin Mary is sick. ” –Giuliani "one must ask if it is an attack on religion itself” – Cardinal John O'Connor, the Archbishop of New York On 16 December 1999, a 72-year-old man was arrested for criminal mischief after smearing the Ofili painting with white paint. Dennis Heiner  "induces revulsion” --William A. Donohue
  • 6. Censoring Religion in Artwork “ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment US Constitution Death of the Virgin Caravaggio (1604) Piss Christ Andres Serrano (1987) Gay Jesus Alfred Hrdlicka (2008)
  • 7. The Media friend and Foe Homo censorious takes a few elements out of context--specific words, titles, part of a design--and treats them as if they embody the entire work of art. Insists on a single interpretation of a work of art Makes interpretations that are concrete and literal Decontextualizes a few elements—specific words, titles, part of a design—and treats them as if they embody the entire work of art Assumes a paternalistic attitude of others Overestimates the effects of exposure to cultural expression and assumes the effects to be immediate and irreversible Wishes to impose his own sense of morality onto the entire public Inadvertently stokes the public’s desire to view precisely what he wishes to prohibit Description of The Holy Virgin Mary “ smeared,” “smattered,” “splattered,” “smattered,” “splotched,” “stained,” with elephant dung…
  • 8. Public Showdown MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI : If I ignored it, then the argument would be on the other side: How can you ignore something as disgusting, horrible and awful as this? And my view is you do what you think is right. I believe opposing this is the right thing. ARNOLD LEHMAN , Director, Brooklyn Museum of Art: This is an important exhibition. I mean, this is a defining exhibition of a decade of the most creative energy that's come out of Great Britain in a very long time. And that's why we did it, these works are challenging, and thought provoking, and some are beautiful, some are very difficult to look at. HILLARY CLINTON : It is not appropriate to penalize and punish an institution such as the Brooklyn museum that has served this community with distinction over many years MUSEUM GOER : I can't believe that this has caused this commotion. I don't know. I don't have an adverse reaction to it. You know, it's someone's view on something.  MUSEM GOER : I'm furious about this. This is a tremendous insult to the mother of my God and to me. I think it's a disgrace that people can bash other people's religion. 