Friday, 3 December 2010

A Fire in my Belly

I have posted before on the relationship between art and law, and in particular the policing of 'contentious' art, yesterdays Guardian provided another great example with news of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington pulling an exhibit from the Hide/Seek exhibition. Over 18s can watch the video in question, A Fire in my Belly, here. It's an interesting piece created by the artist David Wojnarowicz in 1987 to mark the death of his lover Peter Hujar, but was removed from the exhibition following pressure from the Catholic League. Religion and sex in art, and especially the 'same sex' variety, are often targets for moral outrage and attempts to prohibit. What is particularly interesting here is that it marks another attempt to censor work not by using more traditional avenues such as criminal law, but by the threat of withdrawing funding. It reminded me of the Sensation exhibition, and the furore surrounding Chris Ofili's  The Holy Virgin Mary. Its a great piece of work, and was shown recently at Tate Britain as part of a retrospective of his work, but when it was shown in New York in the 1990s it was vandalised and the then mayor Guiliani threatened to withdraw future public funding from the gallery. The picture below shows the piece protected by plexi -glass in the gallery. For more on this see art crimes.

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