October 16, 2019
Latest News
Entertainment

The day a US museum canceled an exhibit due to political pressure

By Alfonso Fernandez

Washington, Jun 14 (efe-epa).- In 1989 the pressure applied by members of Congress forced the canceling of an exhibition by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington; 30 years later the gallery is providing a new look at the turbulent days of that disputed decision.

Few exhibitions are dedicated to recalling how and why an exhibit was suspended days before its inauguration due to censorship, but "6.13.89: The Canceling of the Mapplethorpe Exhibition" is one of them.

Sanjit Sethi, curator of the exhibition and director of what is now the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at the George Washington University, told EFE in an interview that the idea of the show is "to excavate one of the biggest ghosts of our past."

"Thirty years ago today, the Corcoran Gallery of Art announced that they were canceling 'A Perfect Moment,' the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, so for us it's a very important opportunity to revisit what happens when an institution has canceled an exhibition, and to do so through the lens of us as an educational community," Sethi said.

"You know, I think the implications for the cancelation were profoundly felt internally within the Corcoran, locally, nationally and internationally," the director said. "What does it mean when you have a significant cultural institution caving-in to political pressure? And those repercussions continue today, I think. We still see those."

To begin with, it's necessary to look back three decades.

The new exhibition brings to light documents, letters, the minutes of meetings, newspaper cuttings, protest posters and, of course, a catalogue of the original exhibit that has become a gem for collectors.

"Immoral trash" is what the exhibit was called at the time by Jesse Helms, the powerful Republican senator from North Carolina who together with his New York colleague Al D'Amato were the most critical.

The Mapplethorpe show was partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and disgruntled lawmakers threatened that agency with budget cuts.

"We realize that the interpretation of art is a subjective evaluation, but there is a very clear and unambiguous line that exists between what can be classified as art and what must be called morally reprehensible trash," more than a score of House members said in a June 8, 1989, letter to the NEA.

The lawmakers blasted the exhibition as "a horrible abuse of tax dollars."

The artist, known for his explicit and stylized images of gay eroticism, had died of AIDS several months before when he was only 42 years old.

Male couples of diverse races hugging, explicit nudes both masculine and feminine, close-ups of the genitals of Mapplethorpe's friends and colleagues, were some of the photos in the original exhibition by the photographer considered one of the landmark artists of the 1970s and '80s.

As a result of the pressure by Congress, an after consulting with the board of directors, the director of the art gallery, Christina Orr-Cahall, announced its cancelation.

Her decision was backed by the museum board on the recommendation of chairman David Lloyd Kreeger.

"It was a close call," Kreeger said at the time. "If you went ahead, I suppose you could say you were upholding freedom of artistic expression against possible political pressure. But you have to consider the larger picture."

"The endowment has been under attack, its appropriation has been cut by the Executive again and again, only to be restored by Congress. And this is a very critical period in the appropriation process. If proceeding with this exhibition hurts NEA appropriations, it is detrimental to the Corcoran and every other art institution," the chairman said.

After the show was canceled, the protests continued and the US capital's artistic community organized demonstrations in front of the museum where they projected some of the photographer's iconic images.

Though the cancelation sought to guarantee its financial well-being, the failed exhibition was a lethal blow to the museum, founded in 1869 and until then one of the most prestigious art galleries in the United States.

In the following years, donations and other forms of financial aid collapsed, and the institution's influence entered a progressive decline to the point that it was sold to GWU in 2014 on condition that it maintain its original mission and that its collection be redistributed to other art centers.

The Corcoran is now trying to look its past squarely in the face.

News history
Saype's Beyond Walls Project land art

French-Swiss artist Saype has installed a huge artwork in Geneva's Parc de la Grange. The piece covers an area of 5,000 square meters, is 165 meters long...

Game of Thrones sweeps Creative Arts Emmys with 10 awards

Los Angeles, USA, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- Fantasy series "Game of Thrones" dominated at the American television Emmy Awards ceremony over the weekend, earning 10...

Nazi satire "Jojo Rabbit" gets crowned at TIFF with People's Choice Award

By Julio Cesar Rivas

Mexico seeks to topple Brazil's Volkswagen Guinness World Record

Puebla, Mexico, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- The Mexican state of Puebla over the weekend attempted to take the Guinness World Record for the most Volkswagen vehicles...

Honduran president asks CentAm to work together to overcome common enemies

Tegucigalpa, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Sunday urged Central Americans to unite to face "common enemies," including...

Ortega encabeza desfile de bandas rítmicas en fiestas patrias de Nicaragua

Managua, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- Nicaragua's president on Saturday headed the national parade of percussive bands and rhythmic gymnastics held each year on...

From pharmaceuticals to fashion, Fructuoso on dressing Beyoncé

By Ana Paula Chain

The jewels of the Russian tsars come to Amsterdam’s Hermitage

By Imane Rachidi

Director James Gunn announces cast for upcoming "Suicide Squad" sequel

Los Angeles, USA, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- American filmmaker James Gunn on Friday announced the star-studded cast for the second part of the 2016 DC comic-book...

Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in college admissions scandal

Washington, Sep 13 (EFE).- Actress Felicity Huffman, best known for the television series "Desperate Housewives," was sentenced Friday to two weeks behind...

La ilustradora de cómic colombiana Sindy Infante Saavedra en el  Comic Strip Festival de Bruselas

Brussels, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- The annual Brussels Comic Strip Festival kicked off in the Belgium capital on Friday.

London Fashion Week kicks off amid PETA protest

London, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- Global designers presented their Spring/Summer 2020 collections at London Fashion Week which launched Friday and will run until...

Mugabe to be buried at National Heroes Acre monument

Harare, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- Robert Mugabe will be buried at the National Heroes Acre monument after a ceremony on Sunday marking the Zimbabwean leader's...

Monsters lurk in hotel room inspired by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro

Guadalajara, Mexico, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- Monsters, skulls and a creepy Victorian-steampunk atmosphere inspired by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro are to...

Lovers of Modena were two men so why were they buried together?

Rome, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- For ten years two skeletons lying side by side with their hands clasped were known as the Lovers of Modena but it has now been...

HBO reportedly nearing order for 2nd Game of Thrones prequel about Targaryens

Los Angeles, USA, Sep 12 (efe-epa).- American cable giant HBO is nearing a pilot order for a second series set in the same universe as its hit fantasy show...

Austrian bank organizing trip for 1,500 tourists to Cantabria, Basque region

Kapelln, Austria, Sep 12 (efe-epa).- Cantabria and the Basque Country next spring will welcome some 1,500 Austrian tourists divided into dozens of groups...

Meghan Markle launches charity capsule collection

London, Sep 12 (EFE).- The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, launched a charity capsule collection to help unemployed women on Thursday at her first...

Palace of founder of modern Egypt to receive visitors

Cairo, Sep 12 (efe-epa).- The palace where the creator of modern Egypt Mohammad Ali Pasha resided has regained its splendor and is due to reopen to the...

Meghan Markle launches charity capsule collection

London, Sep 12 (efe-epa).- The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, launched a charity capsule collection to help unemployed women on Thursday at her first...

Lord Ganesha's birthday celebrated in India

Indian devotees on Thursday celebrated the Ganpati festival that marks the birth of the Hindu god Lord Ganesha. The celebrations involved the ritual of...

Conservative Thai Buddhists file case against superhero Buddha art

Bangkok, Sep 12 (efe-epa).- A group of hardline Buddhists in Thailand have filed a police complaint about an artwork that depicts Buddha as 1960s Japanese...

Remakes of iconic games steal limelight at Tokyo Game Show

By María Roldán

Cockfighting rakes in millions in Thailand

By Noel Caballero

I agree Welcome to news4europe.eu. We use cookies to improve your online experience. Find out more.