Name: Detroit museum director shuts down highly anticipated modern art exhibit due to potentially offensive artwork

Date:  1995 - 2005

Location:  North America

SubjectReligious , Explicit Sexuality

MediumInstallation , Photography , Video Art

image description
Artist: Artists intended to show their work in the 1999 modern art exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Artists include: Jef Bourgeau, Tracey Emin, and Andres Serrano.

Confronting Bodies: Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) administration/officials, specifically the museum’s director, Graham Beal.

Date of Action: 1999

Specific Location: Detroit, Michigan USA

Description of Artwork: The 1999 modern art exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts was to have a number of controversial pieces including a work called “Bathtub Jesus” with a male doll wearing a condom (pictured above) and a video of British artist Tracey Emin in a menstruation ritual. In addition, the Detroit exhibit was to feature a vial of urine from Andres Serrano’s highly publicized photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine.

Description of Incident: The modern art exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts was two-years in the making. However, in 1999, as the exhibition was coming together and the museums director saw several of the pieces to be featured in the exhibit, DIA officials became worried about the content of the show which included potentially offensive artwork combining religious and sexual themes.

Results of Incident: After two-years of preparing and planning and much anticipation, the newly appointed director of the DIA, Graham Beal, decided to shut down the modern art exhibit fearing that several of the religious and sexually themed pieces in the show would be potentially offensive. Beal’s decision to shut down the highly anticipated modern exhibit comes on the heals of the controversy in New York City over an art museum that displayed an image of the Virgin Mary that used elephant dung. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has been strongly critical of the exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.


Submitted By: National Coalition Against Censorship

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