Museum Exhibit Does It Again

By Trotta, Liz | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

Museum Exhibit Does It Again


Trotta, Liz, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


NEW YORK - Just when the mayor thought it was safe to go back to the Brooklyn Museum, they did it again.

A color photo of a nude woman with outstretched arms in the traditional place of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper is set to go on display today at the popular institution - the very one that last year set off a furor with a dung-dappled painting of the Virgin Mary.

The controversial series of photos, "Yo Mama's Last Supper," is one of 188 works by black artists in the show, "Committed to the Image: Contemporary Black Photographers."

So far, the offending entry has not triggered the intense drama created last year by "Sensation," a collection of provocative contemporary British art.

But Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and the city's most vocal Catholic activist already have jumped into the fray, and artist Renee Cox, a black feminist with a history of using Catholic images in her work, spent most of yesterday holding news conferences.

Miss Cox, who literally puts her herself into her work, is portrayed as the slim, long-haired woman with outstretched arms in the photograph.

Both sides invoked Third Reich oppression to make their arguments.

"If something is called art, is that sufficient to gain entry into an exhibition? If that's the case, then we suspend all moral judgment. And if that's true, then what about a portrayal of Hitler as a hero and his concentration camp victims as demons?" asked William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Miss Cox responded: "I don't think you can start repressing art. That's absolutely heinous. You might as well be Hitler and say let's have Kristallnacht," referring to a 1938 nationwide attack on Jewish businesses in Germany.

"Let's burn all the books. Let's take down all the paintings that offend me because of one person's opinion," she continued.

As for the mayor, who thinks the Last Supper photo is "disgusting and outrageous," he said he is appointing a task force to establish decency standards for institutions that are funded by taxpayers.

Mr. Giuliani admitted, however, that he is "mindful" that after the city cut off funds to the museum during the "Sensation" outcry, a court ruled that his administration's actions had violated the First Amendment. …

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