New York’s Guggenheim pulls controversial animal art after threats

The Guggenheim Museum in New York has decided to withdraw three works from a hotly anticipated exhibition on modern China. — AFP pic
The Guggenheim Museum in New York has decided to withdraw three works from a hotly anticipated exhibition on modern China. — AFP pic

NEW YORK, Sept 28 — The Guggenheim Museum in New York has decided to withdraw three works from a hotly anticipated exhibition on modern China, after receiving “repeated threats of violence” related to the staging of live animals.

Among the works in the exhibit “Art and China after 1989: Theatre of the World”, slated to open October 6, were three involving animals — sparking protests from animal rights activists.

A central work that will not go on display is Theatre of the World, an octagonal installation inhabited by hundreds of reptiles and insects.

The museum will also exclude the video Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other. Made by Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, the installation shows pitbull dogs placed opposite each other and tethered to non-motorised treadmills, running at each other but unable to touch.

A Case Study of Transference by Chinese artist Xu Bing, which shows two pigs mating, will also be omitted from the show.

A petition launched on the Change.org website garnered nearly 700,000 signatures in a bid to send the message that “animal cruelty holds no place in art in the United States.”

After several days of sustained campaigning backed by the American animal rights organisation Peta, the Guggenheim bowed to the pressure.

“Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Guggenheim regrets that explicit and repeated threats of violence have made our decision necessary,” the museum said in a statement.

“As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art.”

PEN America, an organisation that defends literary and artistic expression, called the decision “a major blow.”

“That threats of violence became grounds for the cancellation of the works represents a major blow to artistic freedom,” read a statement from its executive director Suzanne Nossel. — AFP-Relaxnews

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