Time was when museums and art critics closed ranks against anyone who objected to a particular work of art or exhibition as offensive. But it turns out that some complaints are more equal than others.
Because 600,000 animal-rights supporters signed an online petition, New York’s Guggenheim Museum has pulled three major works from a highly anticipated exhibition.
Protesters complained that the pieces in an exhibit on “Art and China After 1989” displayed cruelty to animals, including the use of live insects. (Cruelty to insects?)
PEN America calls it “a major blow to artistic freedom.” But others cheered the win for animal rights over the First Amendment.
To tell the truth, we’re dubious about the artistic merit of a work that features two pigs mating, or one that shows two pit bulls being restrained while running on a treadmill. We can even understand why some might find it disturbing.
Yet we also understood the offense Catholics and others felt over a painting of the Madonna surrounded by elephant dung and one of a crucifix submerged in urine. But they were told that removing such “art” would endanger the future of free speech.
If museums are going to cower in fear from the most deranged critics, they forfeit their standing as institutions of culture.
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