02 de junio de 2020
ÚLTIMAS NOTICIAS:
Hispanic World

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

By Alfonso Fernandez

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.

Histórico de noticias
Daily COVID-19 pandemic roundup: June 1

Miami Desk, Jun 1 (efe-epa).- Here's a roundup of stories around the world related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

Family-ordered autopsy confirms George Floyd died of asphyxiation

Washington, Jun 1 (efe-epa).- The independent autopsy ordered by the family of George Floyd, the African American man who died exactly a week ago while...

4 Brazilian states begin reopening with cases, deaths still on the rise

Sao Paulo, Jun 1 (efe-epa).- Several cities in the Brazilian states of Sao Paulo, Ceara, Amazonas and Para - four of the regions hardest hit by the...

Boston ex-police chief: The problem's not the police, it's systemic racism

By Jairo Mejia

Police behavior stirring up violence amid US protests

Washington, May 31 (efe-epa).- Across the United States on Sunday, local authorities strengthened security measures to prepare for new after-dark riots and...

Daily COVID-19 pandemic roundup: May 31

Miami Desk, May 31 (efe-epa).- Here's a roundup of stories around the world related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

Pro- and anti-Bolsonaro forces clash in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo, May 31 (efe-epa).- Groups supporting and opposing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro clashed on Sunday in violent disturbances amid the political...

SpaceX Dragon capsule docks with International Space Station

(Update: Adds comments by crew and NASA officials)

Daily COVID-19 pandemic roundup: May 28

Miami Desk, May 28 (efe-epa).- Here's a roundup of stories around the world related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

With 101,000 deaths, US still unable to slow spread of coronavirus

Washington, May 28 (efe-epa).- The United States, now with more than 101,000 official deaths from Covid-19, on Thursday still has not been able to halt the...

FBI giving top priority to black man's death at hands of Minneapolis police

Washington, May 28 (efe-epa).- The US Department of Justice and the FBI on Thursday issued a joint statement saying that they will undertake a "robust...

Migrants held in US detention centers at the mercy of COVID-19

By Alex Segura Lozano and Laura Barros

Daily COVID-19 pandemic roundup: May 27

Miami Desk, May 27 (efe-epa).- Here's a roundup of stories around the world related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

NASA-SpaceX launch to International Space Station scrubbed due to weather

Miami, May 27 (efe-epa).- The historic launch of the NASA-SpaceX manned mission to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida...

Brazil's economic engine announces responsible resumption of activities

By Maria Angelica Troncoso

Expert: Pandemic revealing labor exploitation as in US slavery period

By Jorge Ignacio Perez

Daily COVID-19 pandemic roundup: May 26

Miami Desk, May 26 (efe-epa).- Here's a roundup of stories around the world related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

Florida expresses interest in hosting GOP conclave if Trump cancels NC event

Miami, May 26 (efe-epa).- Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, said that his state would love to host the Republican National Convention this summer...

Brazil, its image abroad marred, suffering record capital flight

By Carla Samon Ros

FBI investigating death of black man arrested by white cop

(Update: Adds identity of victim, firing of 4 police officers)

Daily COVID-19 pandemic roundup: May 25

Miami Desk, May 25 (efe-epa).- Here's a roundup of stories around the world related to the novel coronavirus pandemic:

Americans flock to beaches on Memorial Day amid health personnel's concerns

By Alfonso Fernandez

Stranded Colombians send out SOS from Sao Paulo airport

By Carlos Meneses Sanchez

Bogota's Teatro Mayor celebrating 10th anniversary with digital focus

By Jaime Ortega Carrascal