One of the six casts of Henry Moore's "Reclining Figure 1969–70" at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (photo by Yair Haklai/Wikipedia)

One of the six casts of Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure 1969–70” at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (photo by Yair Haklai/Wikipedia)

In what is apparently not an April Fools’ joke, a group of current and former Columbia University students is protesting the installation of a Henry Moore sculpture on campus. The four students (one alumnus and three current seniors) expressed their horror in an op-ed in the Columbia Daily Spectator, the school’s paper. It begins: “On Monday, it came to our attention that the University plans to permanently lodge a hideous sculpture in front of Butler Library.” And it gets much, much better.

The students go on to call the Moore piece — a big bronze titled “Reclining Figure 1969–70” — a “ghoulish figure,” a “monstrosity,” an “ugly hunk of metal,” “a desecration of our home,” and an “arrogant middle finger to the world.” (The poor things have apparently never seen artworks that consist of literal middle fingers to the world.) They liken it to “a dying mantis or a poorly formed pterodactyl.” They slander it as “an idealization of a chewed wad of gum.” Who said art didn’t still have the power to shock — the art of a British modernist working in a family-friendly zone between figuration and abstraction, no less?

But perhaps that’s not fair. The Columbia students seem less shocked by the Moore than they are offended by it. And why are they offended by it? Because it’s ugly. “The sculpture is so repulsive that when thieves stole Moore’s original cast, valued at £3 million, they literally chopped it up and sold it for scraps,” they write — evidently unaware that people chop things up and sell them for money, not looks. They continue:

Whatever its artistic merits, placing the sculpture in front of Butler Library will put an eyesore on an otherwise crisp, geometric, and symmetrical landscape. Moore’s ghoulish figure clashes with the neoclassical aesthetic instantly recognizable to generations of Columbians.

And my favorite:

All of this is not to say that modern sculpture has no place at the University. It just doesn’t belong in the center of campus.

Yes, folks, four students who attend Columbia University in the year 2016 — who presumably also attended the school in 2014, the year it hosted the most talked-about performance art piece in recent memory — hate modern art because it doesn’t uphold a classically beautiful ideal. And to prove their point, that Moore’s brand of modernism could just never gel with the school’s neoclassical campus, they photoshopped a rendering of what the sculpture might look like installed in front of the Butler Library. It looks … like every other Henry Moore sculpture installed on a plot of grass in front of a building! Maybe slightly better! Surprise!!

Please, no one tell these folks about postmodernism. They might do something drastic.

h/t @Juliahalperin

Update, 10:30pm ET: According to the Spectator, over 1,000 people have signed a petition asking to halt the installation of the sculpture, although it’s unclear how that number has been verified, as the petition is a Google Form and does not immediately display names or numbers.

Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

159 replies on “Columbia Students Object to Installation of Henry Moore “Monstrosity””

  1. The issue is not the actual sculpture as much as the location of the sculpture on the campus. It takes up valuable lawn space, and does not suit the surrounding neoclassical buildings at all. It also uses up a significant amount of money that could be used on other things that are more pressing at the school.

    1. ‘Takes up valuable lawn space’. Have you seen the photo shop ? It seems to be about 10 m2. What sort of sculptures suit neoclassical buidlings ? George Washington on a horse ?

      1. NYC and lawn space is just amazingly funny as an argument. I moved to NY to go to Tisch in ’96 and if anyone ever talked about the lawn space as being a prime reason for being here or something else not being allowed to be I think they’d have gotten escorted off the island in a box. LOL Go to Sheep’s Meadow, loves. Leave the rest of us to have our aesthetic assaulted like only NYC can.

    2. Art IS important. What if humans had given in to the ‘more pressing things’ argument throughout our history? Would there BE any art in the world? I shudder to think of it.

      1. And this is the answer to, why does Art have the best Darwinian model for survival? You never need to think of it. It won’t happen. It’s impossible and always has been. And if it ever is, well…no one will notice anyway so don’t worry about it. 😉 Best news I know.

    3. One might suggest that informally dressed students, faculty, and visitors of today also do not suit the surrounding neoclassical buildings and should be asked to dress up in 19th century clothing when using the library. Better yet, classical robes of antiquity, to match the classical vision of the 19th C. architects.

      1. And, of course, no computers in the library. It wouldn’t suit the neoclassical surroundings.

      2. “One might suggest that informally dressed students, faculty, and visitors of today also do not suit the surrounding neoclassical buildings…”

        You perhaps jest, but I would suggest exactly that, and that there should be dress codes on campus. Not to the comical hyperbolic extent you suggest, of course, but to some degree reflecting the (at least potential) dignity, beauty, and nobility of the pursuit of knowledge. The mode of dress affects behavior and mindset, and is a form of communication, a language, which can communicate as directly, if not more so, than words.

        1. We had one where I attended preparatory school for this reason. I don’t think this is a bad idea. Is it right for NYC….I’m not certain, but I’m certainly not opposed to it.

    4. The Tilted Arc was inconveniencing Federal Building employees.
      Just like today’s majority of students, those federal “workers” were incompetent even in their own speciality: yawning.

        1. You don’t seem to know what this was about.
          Those workers were insulting jerks who among others, made an old/deaf Polish legal immigrant cry inside the building, and the “environment” was outside the building, voted in by an art committee assembled by the city’s Mayor.

          1. I would’ve treated them contemptuously because they were not doing their own work well.
            They dragged their lazy feet for 13 years in a personal federal case that was finally decided by a judge in my favor.
            I liked the Tilted Arc, and the city’s votes were on the side of keeping it, but because those bastards were crying their eyes out about esthetics and obstruction of garbage, they won.
            No logic about it, just a fucking tantrum.

      1. Yes…, and there was a lovely little creek where Minetta Lane is now with a dirt foot path…; today, however, we just learned Manhattan broke the $1,000,000 average per house/apt; GEE !!! ain’t it all just so GRAND ?!!

    5. It looks totally climbable and jungle gym like to me. Have fun on the damn thing! Live a little! Mom and dad let you move to NYC so….what the hell is all this talk about suiting surrounding…lawn…what?! Why are you in school in NYC again? Seriously? And if you aren’t in school then….oh jees I got nothing. You should know better.

          1. My meaning is clear, and it’s presumptuousness pales in comparison to the comment it was in reply to.

          2. I’d say, to be fair, it was about equal at best. Which is why I found it pointless. Your hyperbole doesn’t help me understand your meaning anymore clearly unless it’s “I’m saying something just to say something back to the other person who said something I disagreed with.”

    1. And do you know why? And is it really that important that you like it? This world of likes is gonna drive you mad, my dear. I’m upvoting 😉 And down voting myself…

  2. Sorta makes you wonder what say they had in their parents’ choice of furniture.

    1. No taste. Very boring. Or insane. Or stunning. Or 70s shag everything. Whatever it was I’m more curious about what they had on their bookshelves.

  3. Interesting to see little grassroots rebellions against blue-chip artists. First the Renoir lot, now this.

    1. Now if only they would.. I dunno.. pick someone besides long dead, thoroughly non-controversial artists.

      1. Didn’t someone mess with the new Whitney? Yeah…that coulda been a target that would make a rebellion like that sound truish….cause damaging those brand new floors at go was just tacky. His poodles are dead to me.

  4. Their assertion that the sculpture is ugly is just an assertion. At best, assuming they are not being dishonest, it means they do not like it. Liking is subjective. These people are university students and they don’t know that?

    1. That would apply as well to the people who like it, as well as those who don’t actually like it but think they had better pretend to go along with the Established Order.

      1. So you think the objectors to the statue are being honest but the ones who like the statue are just pretending to like it to go along with the established order? Sounds a bit one-sided to me.

        1. Some people probably like it authentically, but given the repute accorded Moore and Modernism in general, there are going to be many who profess liking it because they have been told to. Just take in the elitism of many of the comments here.

          1. I agree with you to some degree. I like Moore’s work usually but this piece does have an aspect which I don’t like. That is, it looks like an animal with very wide-spread legs so that one can look right up its backside. But I can adjust to that. Some modern concept art, such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, does seem to me to be as you describe.

          2. For example, ‘education’ above. That is, the students either must not have been told what to think, or if they were, they chose to ignore it. They don’t understand that they are supposed to say they think highly of it because it’s credentialed by experts.

          3. No, they are supposed to think critically and boldly. They are supposed to figure out what they think by pulling together bits and pieces of ideas from all sorts of arenas and fields – and rejecting others – and experience the gift in not knowing for sure what they think…not knowing is a huge part of learning how to learn. More importantly it’s where almost all new ideas that help society for generations to come stem from. Not from opinion alone. Definitely not from well phrased opinion or well argued opinion alone. That’s for the politicians not here. When they do have an opinion that they’ve produced using skills promoted and encouraged and challenged by their teachers they next learn how best to share them.

            Do these ideas belong in the public arena yet? Are they ready for our scrutiny? Will they just dig their heals when challenged or will they learn how to know what they know and know what they don’t? Aren’t they given the responsibility in such an established institution that part of integrity is an awareness that they are supposed to (at least begin to) know when those feelings they have about things, are to be past on – and when they are meant to be more mindfully and cooperatively explored….that’s what places of learning are for.

            To make brash mistakes in thinking and not have to defend them (as we have to do) is a vital aspect of education….especially in a field as full of opinion as it’s full of contradictions and questions as the arts. It’s the most humanist of forms of academia. It’s us.

            And when they do speak as Columbia Students it’s with a lineage that should invoke the belief in a mind that’s been worked and trained and has learned how to learn. They should enjoy that it means something that they graduated from there. Really means something. Because when they do and then they do share their opinions or argue against the biggest of critics, they take on a roll that’s more important than any expert. Maybe even any teacher. They are the learned, the disciplined, the studious, the passionate…and that’s what they are supposed to become. They exemplify in society the people who have worked to understand what they don’t understand and then learn some more. This is what the IV league meant.

            But when they express only how something makes them feel and why or simply that their right, and they’re right and their opportunity to have a voice is the only qualifications necessary to use it….they are in fact, patronizing others. And worse, miseducating them. And even worse….starting a habit that only leads to an insecure thinker.

            Today with all this quick acccess to readership and a generation who seem to just need to speak their opinion and win the “right to have their view” (which they always had, it was never not their right) we see the worst of how we educate each other and ourselves in bold, brazen, horribly ultimately self defeating form. Right in front of us. And that’s why so many react with such frustration and even condemnation. It’s not at them….they’re in school and they should be able to talk and think and ask and argue. But I doubt that debate happens. I’d want to say that no teacher could ever tell them what to think. And if they do get that kind of teacher – they must, must, must learn a better way to react than this and they could. But maybe things have turned from respecting the preciousness of the student….down to the self assurance and ego of those who work there. I don’t know.

            I do know that they can absolutely change that if they knew it could be another way. And maybe that’s what some of us are hoping for. They can demand a teacher be changed. I know this because I did it myself at a other University. They are paying for their education as we would any service. You don’t just get what you’re given. Do they know this? Or do they not have any idea that’s how it should be and has been and can be and so they are raging at a sculpture because they don’t want to be given anymore of what they don’t want…

            And it matters if that’s a part of the real reason. Why? Because it simply doesn’t help anyone that we’re assuming these young people are only capable of reactive thought rather than original thought.

            I am disappointed but not surprised that this kind of, carelessness with young minds is getting more and more common in our country’s universities. It’s been going on in every level of learning for far too long. I think the lack of voices other than students we’ve seen in the press at Columbia is a clue toward the actual make up and systems of a problem that’s been ignored or worse, allowed to be used as a hiding place where the poorly behaved are actually on faculty – a hiding place becomes a young mind that’s not being guided, but indulged and even sometimes used to say or do what those adult “masters” in their fields don’t have the guts to do themselves…or even the guts to explain to them why opinion is the lowest form of thought. Maybe the grown ups can’t admit that to themselves.

          4. Well, I was being sarcastic. We are talking about Liberal Arts students, not proto-artists, right? I think you are giving an idealistic view of education in that area. The Liberal Arts were originally devised as a finishing-school program for wealthy English gentlemen: Latin and Greek, maybe some history, philosophy, and theology. With the rise in importance of STEM subjects, those had to be added, but the basic idea remained the same: well-roundedness, so as to fit the student for a leading role in the bourgeois social order. But even when I attended a prestigious Eastern university, back in the late Middle Ages, this smörgåsbordish packing of subject matter was becoming problematical. We live at the end of a rich time in a rich culture, and there is a mighty lot of stuff to know about. And within art, in particular, schools have come to feel (or have been pressured) to expand the scope of the subject matter outside of the work of White men between 1400 and 1900, to new times, places, genders, ethnicities, classes, and cultures. Whatever is chosen must be stuffed into the students, however distracted, quickly and efficiently so that they will not embarrass themselves at cocktail parties or whatever people go to these days, should the subject of the arts arise in conversation.

            But to really learn anything about art, one must obviously not just skim over the surface, but dig into it and live in it, as the upper classes at least used to. This cannot be provided by schools, who are busy filtering and adjusting their charges for middle-class careers. (If there still are any,) Hence, the poor students must fall back on their intuitions and emotions: they like this, they don’t like that, they know what they like. (Not: they like what they know, which is likely to be sparse except for the few who have been strongly attracted long before they encountered education.)

          5. I don’t know what you mean by proto-artists. But I was talking about all students. And it was not an idealistic view. In fact it’s pretty basic stuff that should be required and expected of a higher education in any institution, especially one like Columbia.

            And of course learning continues past college…but I was talking about the preliminaries that are the foundation for education – I’d say in any subject. Expecting them to be at the mercy of anyone’s opinion, which you are in fact doing with your concerns – gives them less credit than they deserve and limits them in ways that we should not be apathetic about.

            I don’t think your sarcasm was simply that. If it was, your reply would have been different. These are students we are talking about and if they are to be given a foundation that allows for the digging and living in the arts or whatever else they are passionate about, we need to show support for their development at this stage.

            Also school is obviously not the only or necessarily the best way to become artistically literate. But again, here we are talking about Columbia students so it’s not relevant.

          6. A proto-artist would be someone who was going to school or otherwise learning to be an artist. I don’t know what goes on now, but back in the day that entailed learning how to actually do things — draw, paint, sculpt, assemble, and so on. This is quite different from learning about things abstractly. For instance, I can tell you how an internal-combustion engine works, but I am not a particularly good auto mechanic.

            What students actually need to learn about art, or anything else, depends on what they are doing and what the community wants from them and the institutions that process them. Most students today seem to be just trying to gain entrée to the possibility of getting a middle-class job. Learning something is secondary. So, in a sense, they are already working, and Columbia students were complaining about the decor of their workplace. But, actually, what place do the plastic arts and similar seemingly peripheral matters have in creating good mid-level corporate bureaucrats? That I don’t know. Fortunately I don’t have to solve the problem. I would be amused if the students thought more radically, but they’d probably be punished if they did.

          7. I’m not sure they have a conception of radical. Or perhaps they have a misconception that this reaction is it. Thank you for the clarification of photo-artist. I attended Tisch for theater and I can’t imagine having only approached it academically, even if I’m not a performer…it would have been a great loss. I think perhaps they have not considered the very mechanics of what this work took to create. If they had….well goodness me it’s even more disturbing.

          8. Proto-artist. Yes, the students would learn more and appreciate more if they engaged in the work. This would also be true of philosophy, law, physics, athletics, sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. But they don’t have time for everything and they’re already working and they are trying to minimize their time and effort toward the next credential. It is sad that they live in such an impoverished world, given what it might be; but those are the choices we make. Or some people make. I managed to slip off the leash now and then, and I recommend it to all. That’s all I mean by radical thinking.

          9. I hear you and I feel you. One would hope that the university would both give voice to and space toward those with a passion in their field to critique the inclusion of an object from that field.

            But since it’s Columbia I think they’ve been far too distracted by Politics and Sex and perhaps not enough drugs n’ rock n’ roll. I only half jest. 😉

            Slipping off that leash is the only kind of radical thinking there ever was and will be until we’re blessed with an age where tying back on may be considered so. Well said.

          10. Well, this has certainly been more interesting than most of what I encounter, and my snotting on this website deserves; so much so that I sought out and subscribed to your blog. See you around….

          11. I have a subscription option?! Yay! My friend who admins for me rocks. And so do you for saying this and doing so. Thank you…

            I hope you enjoy at least a piece or two and it’s worth the effort. If not, please feel free to snot all over there cause it’s a great way for me to learn to get better. One would hope….;-)

          12. I have a fairly serious RSS aggregator. No Facebook and no Twitter. So if you post something we’ll find out if it works. I left a comment with some koordinati in it.

            I am trying to be less snotty, actually….

          13. I actually didn’t realize you meant wordpress’ service. Within a couple weeks I’ll be adding mail chimp in their too…I was confused and now I look like I’ve gotta turn in my geek card. 😉 I’ll be checking out those sites you mentioned asap. Glad to know you. You aren’t snotty at all….I’ve only seen passion.

          14. I also agree with the challenges you mention in higher education. And those challenges I think I address in my post above. You’re absolutely right, that’s why it’s even more important that their professors educate beyond books and facts and prepare them to learn how to learn.

      2. Then it’s a moral question of which is more of a loss and why and when and that I thought was all handled with Piss Christ? I mean come on, the title should have….yeah yeah yeah this never is gonna stop I know. Damn. At least artists don’t get offed now.

    2. Education teaches the difference between mere preference (“liking” which is merely subjective, and therefore cannot be rationally contested) and aesthetic judgment (a value judgment, which is subjective but makes claims to intersubjective agreement, has a communicable basis, is open to debate and critique, etc.)

    1. Oh how I wish it were this thoughtful. But it’s not. It’s really not. 🙁 I hope someone takes this opportunity to visually postmodern the crap out of that campus. They’re so asking for it. I’ll volunteer if any artist needs bodies. 😉

  5. Well, it is ugly…and having Henry Moore’s name on it, while making it more expensive, certainly doesn’t make it less ugly. I might also address the patronizing tone of Ms. Halperin’s article which I find slightly uglier than Mr. Moore’s sculpture. Susan Sontag once wrote that Art is not “about” beauty, which I agree with. Yet for those who object to the sculpture’s placement, I wonder how their lives are enriched by the aesthetic jolt they receive from this metallic shape blocking the sidewalk in front of the library They clearly would be better served by an open space. I applaud the fact that they have spoken up.

    1. It’s not ugly — ugly might be interesting — it’s boring, like most of Moore’s work. It looks like people could sit on it, though, and maybe paint graffiti on it, which might improve it somewhat. Objects could be affixed. The students should reconsider, given the uses to which it might be put.

        1. It could be a kind of giant, twisted ocarina. If the holes were artfully made, the wind would sound in them, causing the sculpture to offend by sound as well as by sight.

          1. Now we’re talkin’ like NYers. Thank fucking god. Can we use it as a spike for one of their heads? Paper mache and balloon of course….string could work too.

    2. Oh, I see. So because YOU think it is ugly it is objectively ugly. Well, I don’t think it is ugly and neither did Moore.. so you are outvoted!

    3. Why aren’t you asking the same question about the people whose lives are not enriched if it is taken away from their view. I wonder how often that happened in our history and how often you’ve waxed on about the tragedy of patronizing decision makers who removed the opportunity to have the artist and the viewer communicate. I know why you haven’t mentioned this…It’s a far more difficult thing to quantify and far more perilous. And that’s why it happens to communities over and over again. That’s why Ms. Sontag did ***see comment below my corrections are in brackets*** [not] imply that [the word] about had any other meaning but rather said it outright and simply to avoid your patronizing tone [toward] us, now. Perhaps you should consider using her arguments with more respect because you’ve given me an aesthetic jolt i’m not sure I can recover from….and I’d bet I’m not alone.

      1. I suppose we can have a conversation about the sculpture’s removal if in fact it is removed. The reality is that Moore’s sculpture is currently on display and conversation abounds…as it should – including dissenting opinions. Please understand, I’m not suggesting that the sculpture be recycled into ashtrays or hubcaps (though the ocarina suggestion has merit), just as, if I opine about not liking a book, I’m not advocating it be burned. As for being patronizing, it was certainly not my intention. Indeed, it’s my respect for a dissenting opinion that moved me to write in the first place. A request: could you clarify your meaning in the sentence referencing the Sontag quote? Thanks in advance.

        1. I agree. Conversation is absolutely critical, especially when critical. But that’s not what I sense going on amongst those students quoted here. I could be wrong, and I realize I may be coming off rather strongly. I apologize for that and appreciate your thoughtful response – it’s certainly more even tempered than I was. To clarify – I meant why Ms. Sontag did not go for nuisance when she said that Art isn’t about Beauty. My understanding of her was that this idea, this concept of rejecting symmetry and beauty in the classic sense was, in fact, using a style without any room for interpretation. I found it to be incredibly intelligent when much of post modernist writers were using wordy phrases and implications to get their message across or even sometimes trick the reader. And to me, including quotes around the word about did that as well – which I think is disingenuous to her argument and reasoning on not only the validity of art that disturbs or disrupts but why that validity is not only new but has in fact always been an underlying truth even back to the days before sculpture veered radically to contra posto (balanced asymmetrically). It really is not about beauty. And it matters. I’ll mark my typo up there now to point to this (I hope) clarification.

          1. Apologies unnecessary. After reading your response, I’ve begun to think I should have placed my quotations around the word beauty instead of about.

        2. On second (and third) reading it’s difficult for me to not edit my tone which I see was not the right approach. But for sake of the discussion I hope my leaving it and saying so does more good than editing it would, despite how icky it makes me feel to leave it. Hope I clarified my reaction. Passions….they run amok sometimes. Mia culpa.

    4. “What’s the ugliest part of your body (WEEP WEEP)?
      Some say your nose, some say your toes,
      But I think it’s your MI-IND…”

          1. “Mein Kampf”? Really? Is it translated as “MI-IND”? Huh. I can actually see him doing that weird little upside-down-spider thing with his hands as he says it…of course, he’d have said “Ver-STAND!” which doesn’t work quite as well, I think. And is “(WEEP WEEP)” actually part of the quote too? “WEIIIII-NEN! WEIIII-NEN!” I’ll bet that gave Eva a few unintentional chuckles, don’t you think? Anyway, your Highness, what’s Hitler got to do with the Moore sculpture? Just curious.

  6. Dateline:
    APRIL 1st, 2016

    Happy St Valentine’s Day. The Easter Bunny just laid an egg full of Halloween fireworks. See you all next St Paddy’s Day on the green. Cheers to moore Henry More!!

  7. Maybe they’d be happier at Lubbock Christian University. I’m sure some of their credits from Columbia would transfer.

    1. They might come out the other side with some great ideas…all this conformity masked in Emersonian foolish consistency is enough to want to toss them all in with the pre-enlightenment thinkers to shake the babies up. I like it!

  8. I would think a very important part of their education at this point, if it has not already been accomplished (which it seems it hasn’t), a very important part would be the realization that simply because one doesn’t like something doesn’t mean they have the right to have it removed from their sight. They’re not in their own nursery rooms any more.

    It also seems that these students may be in need of a bit of “usurpation” of their own “otherwise crisp, geometric, and symmetrical landscape” in their own minds.

    What nonsensical rot….; and I’m not even a big Moore fan.

    1. Hahaha ! I thought you meant Michael Moore for a second and wrote a quippy knee jerk response. Really. Understandable association…but not really forgivable error. Oops! LOL

      1. Thanks for recognizing your “unforgivable” error but I forgive you anyway…, mainly out of spite. Carry on…, ONWARD !!!

    2. So no one should consider what the students want, even though in theory the school exists to serve them and is substantially paid for by them or their families, often to the tune of crushing debt.

      1. Of course they should. Most importantly they should consider what they want for themselves, because I doubt they really know and they should learn how to get what they are paying for. Will they always? No…but when it’s really a matter of student performance and respect….they’ll get it if they project it. That’s not what’s happening here. See my long post below.

    3. “simply because one doesn’t like something doesn’t mean they have the right to have it removed from their sight.”

      That would be to overstate their case. This is a democracy, and people can voice their opinions, critique, and protest. They have no absolute authority, if that is what you imply, nor should they, but they certainly can make their opinions known, and the university should consider the opinions of its community members, including faculty and students.

      1. Sure….but that’s not because this is a democracy (which in fact it’s not there nor even here – online, country etc). It is their right to express their opinion and they should…within the halls of the university. I think believing that just because they can express opinions for us to critique means they should. See my post below on the subject.

  9. Well, this must be an indication that art education was not a big part of these students’ previous lives. I tutored young students who were hell bent on getting into schools like Columbia, and trust me, art was not a part of their lives. They did practice tests over and over and over . . . and now it shows.

    1. “Well, this must be an indication that art education was not a big part of these students’ previous lives.”

      Not at all. An arts education does not inevitably lead to the aesthetic preference for ugliness.

      1. I guess you’re one of those students who got into Columbia based on your test-taking abilities. It’s not too late to begin to get a real education.

  10. Hey, that’s fine…don’t like the work, object to it’s placement, or suitability to the environment but enough with the offended bit because you don’t like the way it looks….seriously. Nauseating.

  11. I’ve been passionate about modern sculpture since I read Boccioni’s ‘Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture’ as a teenager in the eighties. I’m a fan of some of the most challenging artists out there, but I’ve always found Henry Moore’s work to be kind of degrading. I know he is a modern master, and I appreciate his philosophy of working directly with raw materials, shunning modern means of production, and emulating Nature. I’m just saying these kids are not the first to react to Moore this way. When I asked one of my professors what she thought, I found out that even in the eighties this was hardly a novel critique. Also, they say they don’t want it removed, they just don’t want to have to walk past it every day, and since I live about half a mile from a large Moore piece prominently on display across from City Hall, I can relate. In college my joke about Moore was that he was best known for his versions of ‘Mother and Child Reclining in a Furnace’. Some people may think that these kids need to learn a little more about art history, but I think these curators could stand to read a psychology book (they could skip right to the chapter on context).

      1. Because many of Moore’s human figures are abstracted in a way that looks as though they escaped from a furnace or volcano. Melted down. Again, I know this is not Moore’s intention, I’m just pointing out that this article seemed to be written to stir up more of an argument than was really there.

  12. Someone please take these students to their “safe space” so they can recover and for the love of whatever higher power you choose to believe in (or choose not to believe in) place a trigger warning in front of the Moore for goodness sake!

  13. This is almost as sad as Donald Trump running for President. Please keep us posted as my husband and I would love to have it on our lawn.

        1. Ooooh. That film looks right up my alley. Thank you!

          Soros…. is a g-d damn nightmare. And I have to admit it is good to see someone in the artist community hint at it. He’s a comic book villain isn’t an exaggeration (other than he isn’t, unfortunately, fictional.) I think you might understand when I say that because he’s Hungarian (as is my mother and so was her family) makes him even more terrifying. It’s that near bottomless well of endurance in the belly of a sociopath that’s terrible. In other words, the son’a’bitch won’t die. And some commentators below complain about the donor of the Moore sculpture….sheit.

          To be fair, he was young and not literally a Nazi, but as Tony Kushner wrote in “Bright Room Called Day” ‘How much Nazi do you need to be to qualify for membership?’ Perhaps he gets some wiggle room because he was young and Jewish and perhaps surviving was an element (my family escaped only to have Stalin kill my grandfather, but I digress) however his behavior since the British Pound certainly tilts the scales back toward my comfortably saying yep, he’s the only Jew I know who deserves the title.

          And your analogy is all too relevant in its irony. It reminds me of the Securitate’s cunning…make the citizens believe their enemy is everywhere, and especially elsewhere – all the better if you can shoot him in the head and get the world to cheer for it. – just make sure they don’t think it’s you.

          America isn’t faced with the Securitate….yet. But at the rate these kids are advocating for false demagogues over their own minds being challenged, we are far too close for my own comfort.

          Yes….circumstances and facts are not mutually exclusive. In fact they have overlapped in the most blatant ways lately yet we seem to not be able to stop the need for disbelief. 🙁

          1. Soros’ circumstances understood, he caused loss of property and maybe lives.
            The Securitate and Communist propaganda did one good thing for me: I (now) can read between lines like the American students seem to not be able to do.
            I hope I’m wrong about some, but definitely not all, or even the majority.

          2. I hope you’re wrong too….but we’re you’re about enough. We need more eastern European immigrants who got here at least 5 years ago to say “Umm….I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” There are a lot of those words. Oh, and to say Soros is a dick. That’s not said nearly enough.

  14. Jillian, just wanted to voice my concerns about 1) your biased journalism and more importantly 2) the fact that you’re reporting on something you have zero knowledge of. Did you go to Columbia and interview students? You use quotes that are valid but completely misinterpret them (intentionally) to bolster your piece. The quote that is “your favorite” actually expresses the exact opposite of what you say. Rather than us students disliking the sculpture because it is “ugly” or as you suggest, because we do not understand modern art, it is the location in which the university has chosen to display it that causes concerns. If you do not know how to interpret quotes properly or write a good piece of journalism then I have a hard time believing you know how to conceptualize modern art. This piece is a travesty to Hyperallergic and has turned many young readers like myself to better, credible art news sources.

    1. Please use this opportunity to explain what the actual view(s) of students such as yourself is/are ? Critique without doing so is a lost opportunity. 🙂 Sincerely.

  15. Oh my gosh! I remember falling head over heels in love with Moore when I was six years old. Do these folks know that Princeton has a Moore? So does Harvard and Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Brown. In fact, there is a great blog I read that ranked Ivy Leagues based solely on their Moore collections!

    1. SUNY Purchase has 2 And when I was voice student there I sang a set of songs by Erik Satie called Ludions at the opening of a Henry Moore exhibit at the Neuberger Museum. That 20th century music is an abomination as well! lol I love the pair of Henry Moore Statues at Purchase, they are delightful;

  16. What a bunch of change-averse ninnies! So what, you don’t like it. Guess what? I bet there are tons of students and alumni who are Moore fans, and modern sculpture fans in general. These kids’ art-blasting critiques could also use some sharpening, as they’re pretty sophomoric – though the pterodactyl association is kinda valid from some angles. Why you gotta hate on pterodactyls, Columbians?

    Getting upset about the disruption of the campus’ symmetry is kind of… shallow for these brilliant young intellectuals and scholars! Glad to see they’re getting “disrupted”! Onward indeed.

    Personally I think a Koons MJ and Bubbles would go down better 🙂

    1. “I bet there are tons of students and alumni who are Moore fans, and modern sculpture fans in general.”

      So the opinions of those who value Moore’s work matter, but the opinions of those who consider it ugly do not?

  17. At least they had the courage to state their opinions. Especially since I’m sure they were aware they were going to be subject to condescending “I’m SO much cooler than you are” sneers like this article.

  18. In the Ivy League’s more southerly precincts (Philadelphia), Claes Oldenburg’s “Broken Button” sculpture in front of the Van Pelt Library at Penn, continues to provide countless hours of enjoyment for young and old alike! (tap View below for photo)

  19. This sculpture is apparently a donation by David and Laura Finn. I wondered who these people are. A little web research disclosed that he was the CEO of a public relations firm called Ruder Finn. Look them up on Wikipedia, which states:

    “1960s through late 1990s – While representing long-time client Philip Morris (now Altria), Ruder Finn was instrumental in crafting the public relations campaign that disputed the evidence tobacco smoking is hazardous to health.[17][18][19][20]

    1997 – Ruder Finn ran the Global Climate Coalition, a group of mainly United States businesses opposing action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.[21]

    1998 – Caught in conflict of interest as discoveries of financial dealings of Swiss authorities post-World War II surfaced which involved some of their Jewish clients.[22]

    2005 – Pro bono work done for the UN raised speculation when Kofi Annan’s nephew, Kobina, worked as an intern at the firm.[23]

    2012 – Ruder Finn accepts contract worth £150,000 per month by current government of Maldives that is currently being condemned by many nations and organizations (including the Commonwealth) for organizing a political coup d’état that led to the fall of the first democratically elected President of the Maldives. While vice-president of Ruder Finn Tchividjian “admitted there were ‘diverse points of views’ surrounding the circumstances around the change of government”[24] the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has reiterated its call for early elections to be held in the Maldives and that the Commission of National Inquiry set up by the current government to investigate the incidents of 7 February 2012 is not impartial or independent.[25] Since Ruder Finn’s involvement with the current coup regime of Maldives, angry pro-democracy Maldivians have been flooding Ruder Finn’s Facebook and other social media networks.[26]”

    As a Columbia alum, it seems to me that accepting a gift of this magnitude from individuals with a record like this (if the Wikipedia page is indeed factual, and it appears to be so) is a much bigger problem than whether one does or does not appreciate the art work (although I personally agree it is atrocious and does not belong on the campus).

    Perhaps the gift should be reconsidered… or perhaps sold, with the proceeds going to fund worthwhile student initiatives.

    1. This is sickening. I guess its not the first time that dirty money has been used to fund public art, but in this case, it seems particularly repugnant. This gross ‘sculpture’ is not wanted on campus by either the faculty or the students — so why is it there? One would guess simply for the tax benefit of donors!! gross!

    2. To return a gift because wiki opines on some aspects of the gift giver is absurd. But as an alum I’m sure your voice could be heard if you contacted the Alumni Association.

  20. Send it to Lawrence, KS or to the Nelson in KC. We wouldn’t want them to have such a wonderful piece of art. Hicks.

  21. I respect the students for taking this stance.

    Why should a young person necessarily have to reject all older values? That would be throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Yes, a maturing adult should take a long critical look at his or her inherited world, and then carefully consider what is worth retaining, what is worth improving upon, and what should be rejected outright. To assume that everything falls into the last category of “reject” is as mindless a form of conformity (to one’s peers, instead of one’s ancestors) as is blind acceptance of tradition.

  22. I agree with the students. The sculpture is ugly. Why shouldn’t the students voice their opinion on the developments of the university, including its campus? They are part of the university community, and should have some voice in guiding its evolution or de-evolution.

    There is a reason that classical beauty ideals became classical. What is new is not necessarily better. Furthermore, being young does not require one to prefer the new over the old, the shocking over the traditional, or the ugly over the beautiful.

    1. Opinion is fine. But it isn’t enough. And sometimes it doesn’t matter especially when a question of taste or preference. People thought Pollak and Rothke and Cubism were ugly. Klimt too and he made “Danae” as a fuck you to those critics and was considered vulgar. And this has nothing to do with old vs new or young vs old. It has to do with an ability to have a critical eye and express it with more than feelings. Feelings are not facts. But feelings and opinions can become part of the dialogue when made with nuance and observation. These are kids having a knee jerk, immature reaction. Which they should at their age. I made a long post above that explains in detail why this is, in my opinion, a failure of education and why it matters. Especially in the arts.

  23. I am against the infantilizing of students (trigger warnings, etc.), but this is not an instance of that problem.

    Students have every right to make aesthetic judgements, and should learn to do so intelligently. That is one aspect of the character of an adult, and thus a virtue that universities should cultivate and encourage. This virtue is very different from the unwillingness or inability to face the darker aspects of reality (as in the “trigger warnings”). To become an adult, one must also learn to face the tragic and harsh sides of reality with strength, dignity, and grace. This is completely consistent with the rejection of an ugly work of art for being ugly.

    1. Yes they do. But the way they express those judgements and values I find immature and politicized rather than esthetic which is what I think others find fault with as well. But, as I’ve said in other comments I hold the institution far more responsible for their inability to write or speak critically in such a way that is more than the outrage tone we see far too often out of higher education. It’s a shame and almost scary how unprepared to communicate with each other and those in less than or higher than positions of power than themselves. I don’t like thinking about how much we could be missing out on if these young minds are treated with such apathy. (no pun made on your handle) And how else would anyone expect them to be? They aren’t being taught how to really think or express their thoughts….only their feelings and opinions. Opinions are easy. Thinking is much more important and difficult – and there supposed to be learning that now and getting more skilled at it later.

  24. The only reason I can think of to hate the Moore is its objectification of woman. Where are the feminists on this? And yet, if that were the criterion, half of the world’s art would have to be removed from wherever it is. The Moore is simply of its time, a piece of art history. Banal is more like it. Academic by today’s standards. It’s a bit pathetic that fifty years later Columbia wants to be just like Princeton. Which is sillier, the protest or Columbia’s arch-boring-conventional taste? Ugliness is a matter of taste. Could Columbia do better than a piece of art that is the equivalent of a blue-chip stock certificate from the 1960s? One would hope so.

  25. I can’t help but chuckle. A couple of years ago I was at the Columbus Museum of Art (Ohio, just in case fyi) and they have a Moore reclining monstrosity front and center at the museum entrance. I’m sick to death of the female hideous form aesthetic. It’s completely unchallenging to the viewer. I can’t say that this was always true, but it’s what it has become.

  26. But it IS ugly.

    A lot of Moore’s sculpture IS friggin ugly. But see, the Emperor has new clothes and nobody is supposed to say that he’s running around naked.

    Just because a lot of aesthetes have gotten together and laid some kind of mantle of “art” upon someone for years doesn’t mean THEY ARE RIGHT.

    Note: I DID have an arts education. That education taught me to have my own opinion and not just kowtow to the gods of art who claim to know it all.

    1. This isn’t a debate about whether or not it’s ugly. It’s never been one. It should never be one. With your education you should know that already so what’re you trying to say here?

  27. ah “degenerative art”. don’t forget ted cruz went to princeton, didn’t seem to do him any good

  28. I’ve flushed things more aesthetically pleasing than this. I get the idea behind modern art, that doesn’t mean I have to appreciate it. Full support for these students on my part.

  29. loving this !! for the” interweb ” world of zero history…everything is new all of the time.
    Not a great advertisement for Columbia university …which HASBEEN? viewed as one of the most prestigeous Art Historical teaching and Learning institutions in the world ??? YMHS Ian

  30. This article and the NYT as well as the petition don’t mention it, but the area in front of Columbia’s Butler Library has been left clear of permanent structures and art since the 1920s (at least). The students may also be reacting to the poorly photoshopped image in the Columbia Spectator newspaper, which makes the placement of the sculpture look quite unattractive/unsuitable/unwieldy–if you know the overall layout of the site, with lawns to east and west, and with paved walkway on both sides of a lawn strip. Undergrads and staff regularly bragged about this open space surviving on an urban campus–and neither the Library nor the student union were allowed to expand into all this open space. (The sculpture might work better near Columbia’s Low Library or Sage Chapel but that area already feels a bit crowded with sculpture, buildings, and trees.)

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