On October 2, an exhibit opened at The Brooklyn Museum
of Art which rekindled the debate about tax support for the arts.
Scheduled to run through January 9, 2000, the exhibit titled "Sensation:
Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection," originated at the
Royal Academy of Art in London in late 1997.
These works by 40 different artists have something to
offend practically everyone, and it seems that the title tells the story
-- that this is meant to be sensational, to shock for shock's sake. The
piece that seems to have caused the greatest controversy is artist Chris
Ofili's image of a black Virgin Mary with a clump of elephant dung at
her breast and cutouts from pornographic magazines in the background.
New York Mayor Giuliani has responded to complaints from the religious
community by saying this is some "sick stuff", and threatening to cut
off city funds from the museum.
Animal Rights people have been offended by several
pieces, most notably pieces by Damien Hirst, whose works are composed of
animal parts such as sharks, cows, pigs, preserved in formaldehyde. One
of his pieces, "This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy
Stayed Home," features a dissected pig. Another work displays a cow, cut
On Monday, October 4, Animal Rights Online ran a piece
in our Alert for Action mailing about this exhibit. In it we urged our
readers to write the museum officials to protest, and Mayor Giuliani to
thank him for expressing his outrage. We immediately received some
negative feedback about our suggestions. After some consideration by our
staff we decided that it would be prudent to view this exhibit from
In a perfect world, where animals are treated with
respect, this exhibit would be an outrage. But we don't live in a
perfect world. Nine billion animals are killed every year in our country
alone for food. That is an outrage.
From one of our readers..... "I am extremely distressed
at the position being taken by animal activists with reference to the
art show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I hope you will publish my
dissenting opinion. The animal displays are very important and *helpful*
to the animal rights movement. Those animals, who either died or would
have been slaughtered anyway, are demonstrating to the public the
connection between the live animal and the food on their plate. Their
deaths have had a far better purpose than they would have under ordinary
circumstances. One man commented to the press that it would be a long
time before he could think about eating a steak again! This is bad?"
And from another reader..."I saw a replica of the
dissected pig artwork yesterday. I almost wept with joy. It is so
blatantly a pro animal piece. (Billions of)... animals die every year
because "meat" (never called "pig" or "cow") is sold in little plastic
packages. We rarely confront the reality of what is being consumed. The
artwork in question is an "in your face" portrayal of what happened when
"This Little Piggy Went to Market." The hundreds of thousands of people
who see the exhibit will be confronted with this and hopefully have a
squeamish memory of it next time they go to buy their packages of
"bacon" at the supermarket."
Animal Rights Online agrees with the sentiments
expressed in these letters. We shouldn't be thanking New York Mayor
Giuliani, who runs a terrible city animal shelter and is currently under
heavy criticism from animal activists for the hideous way in which his
police force deals with dogs they catch (two Rottweilers recently died
when they were locked in a police car trunk on a 90 degree day). The New
York Times reported that the mayor's criticism of the exhibit actually
helped to draw in more people to see it.
Is it to be lamented that shortsighted art gallery
officials are risking decreases in city, state and federal funding for
the arts, and perhaps even censorship? Or should we be thanking them for
exposing us to the horrors of our society?
Go on to Add a Little
Respect In Treatment of Pet by Phil Arkow -- Courier Post
Return to 6 October 1999 Issue
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