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Tag: artworks

Guggenheim, citing threats, pulls controversial pit bull piece from exhibit

The Guggenheim Museum in New York has pulled from an upcoming exhibit an “artwork” that features, on video, four pairs of pit bulls on treadmills charging at each other.

Real dogs are used in the piece, titled “Dogs Cannot Touch Each Other,” but it is a video version of a performance staged live when it first appeared in Beijing in 2003.

It and two other works condemned by animal welfare activists will no longer be part of the exhibit when it opens Oct. 6.

The charging pit bull piece — a seven minute long video — is by artists Peng Yu and Sun Yuan, a husband and wife team (let’s hope they treat each other with a little more kindness) who, in the original exhibit, lined up four pairs of pit bulls, face to face, on eight treadmills.

The dogs charge towards each other, but never get more than a few inches away. Still, they keep at it, panting and drooling and becoming more and more stressed out and frustrated.

The Guggenheim initially responded to animal welfare concerns by saying it had no intention of removing the work from the exhibit.

But, just four days later, museum officials reconsidered.

guggenheim-gallery-exterior-lightAccording to a report from NPR, the Guggenheim will pull the pieces from its upcoming exhibit, “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.”

The museum blamed “explicit and repeated threats of violence,” but provided no details.

An online petition demanding the museum remove the works garnered more than 600,000 signatures since it was posted five days ago, and protesters gathered outside the museum on Saturday, holding signs that say “suffering animals is not art.”

Even after that, the Guggenheim defended the pit bull video, calling it on Thursday “an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control. We recognize that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share.”

But on Monday the museum relented under the pressure and said it was pulling that work and two others, citing threats of violence and concern for the safety of its staff, visitors and the artists.

“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,” the museum said in a statement. “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.”

In another of the to-be-removed pieces, artist Xu Bing tattooed meaningless characters all over the bodies of two pigs, a boar and a sow, who were put on display, mating, in a museum exhibit in Beijing in 1994. The Guggenheim was to feature the video of that “performance” as well.

Also removed was a work featuring live animals — reptiles, amphibians, insects — that are trapped in a glass enclosure and proceed to eat and kill each other for the viewing pleasure of attendees.

Is artwork an attack on pit bulls?

outofblue3

Whether it’s art, propaganda, or a combination of the two, a memorial to victims of fatal dog attacks is creating controversy as one of dozens of entries in a public art display in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The work  is called “Out of the Blue,” a reference to how dog attacks — and particularly pit bull attacks, the artist repeatedly points out — usually happen.

outofblue2The display, created by a woman identifying herself as Joan Marie Kowal, consists of more than 30 decorated crosses, representing the number of people killed in dog attacks this year, and images of the victims, many of them children.

The artwork is rubbing some dog lovers, and particularly pit bull lovers, the wrong way, which has led to some demonstrations and the kind of heated, everybody’s an expert debate that follows pit bulls around wherever they go.

Joan Marie Kowal, we suspect, has more experience in badmouthing pit bulls than she does in creating art, but then again artists don’t need credentials in this competition.

Every year, for 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids is opened up to artists in ArtPrize, a competition that awards $200,000 to the grand prize winner.

Downtown becomes “an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters,” according to the  ArtPrize  website. “Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown … It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”

This year, “Out of the Blue” has proved among the most disruptive.

A week ago, perturbed pit bull owners brought their dogs to Calder Plaza, where the entry is displayed, in hopes of presenting their views and showing that pit bulls — the breed most often mentioned in the memorial — aren’t vicious killing machines.

When they sat down in front of the memorial, Kowal complained they were obstructing the public’s view.

Kowal told MLIVE.com in an email that “visitors can’t even see the art and many have told me the bully breed owners, sitting on the ledges blocking the view of the victims’ biographies and refusing to move, makes them unable to enjoy the piece.”

Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean said Kowal filed a complaint in late September about people sitting with pit bulls on the stone wall in front of her ArtPrize entry. Police found nothing illegal at that time, he said, and members of the group, while on public property, moved at the request of officers.

Kowal describes the work as “an opportunity to Pay it Forward, and show the good side of humanity. Visitors are encouraged to express their sympathy, respect, and support for the victims and their families by leaving teddy bears, flowers, or memorial decorations in the designated heart-shaped memorial space.”

According to a brief biography listed on the ArtPrize website,  Kowal is an animal lover, who has feral cats and pet squirrels. She attended Grand Valley State University.

Not a whole lot can be learned about her through searching her name on the Internet, and there’s no mention of any previous artistic pursuits.

There was a 2011 MLIVE.com article that mentioned her name, and quoted her as being a supporter of a proposed pit bull ban in Wyoming, Michigan.

Perhaps she became an artist “out of the blue.” Perhaps her anti-pit bull passion needed an outlet.

We support the right for just about anyone to call themselves an artist, assuming they are making some form of art. We don’t have a problem with Kowal expressing herself — either vocally or through her “art” — on the streets of Grand Rapids. By the same token, we have no problem with pit bull owners and their dogs sitting down squarely in front of it, as long as it’s public property. They have the right to express themselves in public, too, whether they’re ArtPrize contestants or not.

So do we. And our opinion is Kowal is pushing her personal agenda under the guise of a non-profit organization’s art competition, and that it’s likely part of a well-plotted effort by those forces intent on painting all members of the breed with the same brush, reinforcing negative stereotypes while playing fast and loose with the facts.

Kowal says she plans to add three more crosses this weekend in remembrance of three other people who died from injuries she says were caused by pit bull attacks.

“That is not my fault that they were all killed by pit bulls,” she said. “I’m just showing the facts.”

Fiberglass dogs raise $24,000

dogdays-299x240Remember those fiberglass dogs displayed around Lafayette, Indiana as part of an outdoor art exhibit — the ones that, between vandals and thieves, weren’t always treated too kindly?

They’ve gone on to raise $24,000 for the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette, co-sponsors of the “Dog Days of Summer” exhibit.

More than 150 people bid on 25 of the the life-sized artworks over the weekend, Channel 6 in Indianapolis reported.

Forty-one painted and decorated dog statues were placed in outdoor sites around Lafayette and West Lafayette in the exhibit, though many were later moved indoors after theft and vandalism.

Only one dog, Alfie the Alpha Dog, was too damaged to be preserved.

Organizers and art lovers, though dismayed that the statues weren’t safe in the community, said they are pleased with the auction results.