Friday, October 22, 2010

There's Something Rotten in the State of Denmark (and France and Switzerland and Hungary)

From the same country bold enough to publish cartoons of Mohamed that led to an international uproar comes a surprising stream of news about intolerance for other types of controversial images. First there was this:
A cartoon depicting the Danish royal family taking part in an orgy has led to the cancellation of a retrospective of works by satirical Danish artist duo Surrend (consisting of Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen). “These people just want to attract attention, nothing else,” said Thomas Bloch Ravn, the director of Den Gamle By in Aarhus, Denmark's second city. “It turned out that I cannot trust them and therefore I decided it's better not to collaborate with them.”

The show was due to open in the Danish Poster Museum, part of Den Gamle By, on 13 October. “We agreed on a retrospective exhibition, but when Surrend announced it was including a totally new poster depicting the Danish royals in a pornographic scene, that was against our agreement,” Ravn said. “This is a clear case of censorship”, said Egesborg. “Denmark pretends to encourage freedom of speech and argues for publishing a cartoon hurting millions of Muslims, but when it comes to its own royalty it's a different story.”
Imagine! Artists who want to attract attention! Of course, they must not be permitted to do any such thing!

Then there is this:
Employees at the town hall of Roskilde near Copenhagen have apparently taken offence at images, on show in the building, of two men made of Duplo (a Lego-style material) having sex. According to Danish press reports, artist Svend Ahnstrøm’s racy piece, which shows ‘Kurt and Anders’ pleasuring themselves in a public park, has prompted three internal complaints. But no objections have been raised about Duplo depictions of Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden. “It’s hard to believe that something like this can offend people in today’s Denmark,” said Ahnstrøm.
Hard to believe indeed. My Danish is nonexistent, but I do find it telling that the same online article that displays the offending image has a side image with two scantily clothed women with obvious enhancements, with no sense of irony, as if there's nothing objectionable to anyone about that.

Moving south, we learn that "Although the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris has banned visitors under eighteen years of age from seeing the current Larry Clark retrospective, some believe that the X-rating does not go far enough. As Le Monde’s Clarisse Fabre reports, an association has called for the entire show to be banned. "
Alliance Générale contre le Racisme et pour le Respect de l’Identité Française et Chrétienne (AGRIF) (General Alliance against Racism and for the Respect of French and Christian Identity) addressed a letter to the Paris police and the mayor of Paris. The association is headed by Bernard Antony, a longtime militant for the right-wing Front national. According to the police, the letter states that AGRIF is currently considering a legal complaint against the organizers of the exhibition for including pornographic images of minors in an exhibition. The infraction carries a maximum penalty of five years of prison and a $103,700 fine.
Wait, there's more:
While Paris debates the X-rated Larry Clark retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Bern has taken more direct action. As Le Monde and Agence France-Presse report, two photographs of young nudes by Clark were removed from an exhibition at the Paul Klee Center. The organizers of the exhibition, which is dedicated to the seven capital sins, also removed a watercolor by the late German artist George Grosz.
You read that right. Organizers at the Paul Klee Center removed a watercolor by George Grosz. A Grosz!!!

As for Grosz’s work, which shows the vulvas of two women, Steiner admitted that the decision to remove the work was last-minute. “There is a certain cruelty in Grosz’s approach, which was intentional for an aggressively politicized Berlin Dadaist.”
Yes, that certain cruelty was actually the entire point of Grosz's Berlin-based work. You couldn't have possibly not known that before you initially included him in the exhibition. So this does nothing to explain the decision.

From London throughout most of central Europe it would seem, artwork dealing with sex is having a tough go of it. This rise in censorship/cancellations/avoidance just so happens to align with a societal embrace of conservatism across Europe, which is the choice of their voters, no question. Still, it's not only over there that artists are feeling this backlash. Hungary's recent turn to the right has had an impact here in New York:
The heavy hand of Hungarian politics seems to have streched across the seas to blight the life of New York artist Janos Stone. Back in May, the artist was commissioned to present a large-scale sculpture at the Hungarian Cultural Center in SoHo, Sept. 14-Oct. 31, 2010, alongside another artist, Thomas Lendvai. However, days before installation was to begin, the exhibition was abruptly cancelled, leaving Stone to pay more than $3,000 in fabrication costs himself (Lendvai had not completed his work, and was able to recoup the cost of his materials). According to the artist, he suspects that his show was "collateral damage of what happened in the elections in Hungary."
Full disclosure, Thomas Lendvai is represented by our gallery.

Given that, as they say, the only two subjects worthy of serious artists are "sex and death," this trend suggests a rather grim horizon for the type of exhibitions one should expect throughout the European Union.

Labels: sex and religion in art


Blogger ellen yustas k. gottlieb said...

Art is not in any way offensive or pornographic. Those who censor art use the censorship in order to shame creativity and lessen the importence of art. These very censors are well aware how sexual art was historically and always will be. Should look more often at Michelangelo's work before canceling what looks innocent in the context of the artshow in museum comparing to Michelangelos' sensual nudes in Vatican !!!Thanks, Edward, a real pleasure as always. You are one of a kind!

10/23/2010 03:29:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home