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ROC to Giuliani: 'Give It Up!'
NATIONAL GRASS-ROOTS ANTI-CENSORSHIP GROUP HITS NYC MAYOR GIULIANI FOR IGNORANCE OF FIRST AMENDMENT, 'HICK' MENTALITY TOWARD THE ARTS
(ROC News Service) The national, grass-roots free expression organization Rock Out Censorship urges New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani "to back away from his attempted strong-arming the Brooklyn Museum of Art into cancelling an exhibition of young British artists scheduled to open there this week, with threats made by Giuliani of cutting city subsidies to the museum," R.O.C. co-founder Randy Payton said today.
"Such threats demonstate a philistine, 'hick' mentality toward the arts and an ignorance of the First Amendment, two truly unfortunate attributes in any big city mayor but particularly sad, and frankly embarrassing to all concerned, in the mayor of the world cultural center that is New York City."
The show, called "Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection" has attracted record crowds in London and Berlin and is the largest show ever mounted (at the cost of $1 million) by the Brooklyn Museum. Images from the show which reportedly 'offended' the mayor (sight unseen) included a painting of the Mother Mary splattered with elephant dung, sculptures of corpses and the use of animals preserved in formaldehyde-filled, glass containers. The Mother Mary painting, seemingly being the primary focus of Giuliani's anger towards the exhibit, was among a collection of artist Chris Ofili's work that won Britain's prestigious Turner Prize for contemporary art. His works are also in the permanent collection of the Tate Gallery in London and the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.
Regardless of one's thoughts on the material depicted in this exhibit, the First Amendment clearly does not allow for Rudy Giuliani to hold the museum hostage financially to allow only art that he personally approves of.
"Here in Ohio where fundamentalists put the cops up to closing down a museum and arresting its director a few years back (for hosting an exhibition of works by the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe)," Payton points out, "a jury of Cincinnati citizens decided in favor of the museum and its director's Constitutional right to present that show. Giuliani's on thin ice here with this stunt."
"In fact, it's difficult to tell what political advantage Giuliani thinks he's going to derive from all this, outside of accolades from the minuscule number of supporters around blow-hard William Donohue (president of the conservative Catholic League) who reportedly put the mayor up to this misguided action. Does Giuliani really want to be known the world over as America's new, number #1 philistine, ahead of even Jesse Helms, a yahoo suppressing that which he doesn't understand, or 'get.'?"
"The whole world's laughing at you, Rudy," Payton said. "We at Rock Out Censorship advise: Give it up now and save some face!"
Rock Out Censorship has published a newspaper THE ROC since 1990 and has operated a national censorship incident-monitoring network through its web site (at www.theroc.org) since 1996.
To respond: You can let Mayor Giuliani know your thoughts at Office of the Mayor, City Hall, New York, NY 10007, by phone at 212-788-9600, FAX at 212-788-7476 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source tips: It's difficult enough trying to get through the heads of folks like Rudy with regard to the First Amendment, let alone explain to them the appeal of 'transgressive' art and music for the young or intellectually adventuresome, but interested others are directed to the new book GOTHIC: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin by Richard Davenport-Hines (North Point Press/Farrar, Straus and Giroux/New York) for erudite discussion of the Dark Side in literature, art and film, including an appreciation of the Chapman brothers whose work features large in the Sensations showing.
A new book by ex-NYC mayor Ed Koch on Giuliani, covering Rudy's petty, tyrannical style and duplicities over his years as mayor, is just out and is called, appropriately enough, Nasty Man (Barricade Books/New York).
"SENSATION: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection" featuring artists Damien Hirst (known for some of the above-mentioned 'animal'-themed works), Jake and Dinos Chapman and others, is scheduled to be on view at the BMA from October 2, 1999 to January 9, 2000. Tickets to the exhibition may be purchased by calling toll free 1-87- SHARKBITE and at Museum admissions. For more information on this and other installations at the BMA go to: http://www.brooklynart.org.
A panel discussion related to issues raised by the SENSATION show, titled "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control? The Sensational and the Serious in Contemporary Art," with art historian and critic Donald Kuspit, artist and writer Rasheed Araeen and others will take place on Sunday, October 16 at 3 p.m. at the BMA.