As reported in Newsmax
, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City yielded to pressure from animal rights supporters and decided to pull three major works from its upcoming show entitled “Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World.” The works included two videos, one depicting dogs on treadmills and the other depicting pigs mating, together with an installation in which hundreds of live insects and reptiles appear under an overhead lamp where they scurry as they fight for survival. The museum administrators cited security concerns as a result of threats the museum claimed to have received if the art works remained in the exhibition.
Animal rights activists decried the exploitation of animals to create “cruel” works. Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in an open letter to the museum that all of the animals, including the cockroaches and centipedes, “experience every emotion that you, I, and our beloved dogs and cats do.” She added, “The animals in these exhibits are not willing participants, and no one should force sentient beings into stressful situations for ‘art’ or ‘sport.’”
The Guggenheim Museum explained its decision to remove the controversial works from the exhibition. "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," it said. "As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art. Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim."
The Guggenheim Museum had a choice whether to give in to what the U.S. Supreme Court has referred to as the “heckler’s veto,” or to stand firm in defense of the principle of free expression that it claims to value so much. It chose the former course, in stark contrast to the Brooklyn Museum a number of years ago. The Brooklyn Museum refused to take down, despite intense pressure from former New York Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, its controversial display of elephant dung and pornographic photographs in Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary. Giuliani was offended, for good reason, by the display of a work in a taxpayer-subsidized museum that he considered to be offensive for religious reasons. By the way, weren’t any animal rights activists offended by the artist’s exploitation of an elephant’s waste material? In any case, Giuliani’s views of what is offensive could not be permitted to take precedence over the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of expression. While the Guggenheim Museum is a private institution, not a public one such as the Brooklyn Museum, it has received government funding and benefits from tax deductible donations.
If every work of art deemed “cruel” or otherwise offensive by some people were concealed from public viewing to assuage the offended persons’ hurt feelings, museums might as well keep their walls blank or mount only the blandest exhibitions possible. Perhaps the Guggenheim Museum can reprise its huge 1999 Norman Rockwell retrospective. Rockwell himself acknowledged that his works were only "feel-good" "story-pictures."
More than artistic expression is at stake here. Freedom of speech is under assault across the country, especially on college campuses as leftwing radicals have succeeded in shutting down events featuring conservative speakers. If offensiveness becomes the standard for setting the boundaries of permissible speech, the Islamists’ quest to ban speech they consider defamatory of the Islam religion will be legitimized in the United States. Sadly, that has already started to happen, including at Yale University.
Yale University Press removed reproductions of the twelve infamous Danish cartoons parodying Muhammad in a book about the controversy, entitled “The Cartoons That Shook The World.” In addition, Yale University Press didn’t include any other illustrations of the prophet, including an ancient Ottoman print, in deference to Muslim sensitivities.
Yale University and Yale University Press reached this decision after consulting with a number of authorities on how the Muslim world would react to the publication of the cartoons in particular. They all advised against publication.
Too many servicemen and servicewomen have spilt their own blood to protect Americans’ unique right of freedom of expression for craven art museums and academic institutions to forfeit that sacred right under pressure.
Joseph A. Klein is a featured author for FrontPage Magazine and the United Nations correspondent for Canada Free Press. He has also authored the books "Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom" and "Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam." Klein, a Harvard Law school alumnus and practicing attorney, has been a guest on many radio shows as a commentator and has appeared on several TV shows including "Fox & Friends." For more of this reports — Click Here Now.
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