Posted inNews

Ai Weiwei’s Internet Cut, Banned From Leaving China

In advance of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese government severely restricted travel for a group of liberal intellectuals who they fear may have attempted to attend the ceremony. Ai Weiwei was among those banned, though the artist recently has been a magnet for political controversy himself after a planned party to celebrate a government-mandated studio demolition ended in house arrest to prevent Ai from attending.

To me, it looks like Chinese political pressure is coming to a head for Ai and his time living with any freedom in the country may be coming to an end.

Posted inOpinion

Censored Smithsonian Video Flagged “Inappropriate” on YouTube

Hyperallergic tweep @remaerdyaD pointed out that David Wojnarowicz’ video, recently removed from the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek exhibition, has also been flagged as “inappropriate for some users” on YouTube, meaning that viewers will have to sign in to the website and check their safety settings before being able to watch the video.

Since there’s nothing explicitly offensive in the video, I have to guess that YouTube’s decision to wall off the video was carried out in the aftermath of the conflict at the Smithsonian over religious imagery in Wojnarowicz’ work.

Posted inArt

By Self-Censoring, Smithsonian Betrays Art’s Integrity

When I saw that the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery chose to remove David Wojnarowicz’ “A Fire in My Belly” from its Hide/Seek exhibition following Republican political pressure, I was embarrassed and a little confused for the museum. Isn’t it the job of the art world to stand up to those who essentialize art as “offensive” or “degenerate,” and represent the minority who find little voice in the mainstream outside of art? By choosing to self-censor rather than bear out a media storm that has now turned against the museum, the Smithsonian sets a precedent by which art exhibitions can be compromised piece by piece simply because their imagery may be disagreeable to some.

Posted inNews

Smithsonian Caves to GOP Pressure, Removes Ant-Covered Jesus Video

The National Portrait Gallery has caved under Republican political pressure and removed a potentially “offensive” video work by David Wojnarowicz, a multi-media artist who was felled by AIDS in 1992, from its Hide/Seek exhibition. The exhibition, deemed brave and important by critics, uncovers previously-veiled LGBT influences in the history of art. Yet threats and demands that the exhibition be canceled from Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have caused the NPG to remove Wojnarowicz’ “A Fire In My Belly,” a video that features a brief clip of ants crawling over a crucifixion Jesus figure.

Posted inOpinion

Is the Middle East the Next Global Cultural Center?

The Financial Times kicks off a polemical article with the knock-out sentence, “Europe as a cultural centre is in danger of being eclipsed by the Middle East as western heritage industries struggle with swinging austerity measures.” Speaking to the recession-induced cuts to Western cultural organizations, the Times argues that the Middle East’s status as the locus of international money (based on oil and human capital) make it a more stable patron of the arts, and thus “the new cultural capital of the world.” Including a quote from Met director-emeritus Phillipe de Montebello, the argument runs that as water flows downhill, culture flows toward money. This is a stupid, reductive way to think of a globalizing art world that has never been larger or more universally accessible.

Posted inOpinion

Charlie Finch Thinks Art Galleries Should Leave China. He’s Wrong.

In a column for Artnet, veteran art critic and grumbly curmudgeon/cheerleader Charlie Finch responds to Ai Weiwei’s recent house arrest with an ultimatum: the art world should stop having anything to do with China. He calls for a boycott of the country, Western art galleries abdicating their Beijing spaces, auction houses to cancel Asian sales. Here’s why Finch is wrong.

Posted inNews

What’s Up With UK Arts Funding Cuts?

Arts Council England, a group within the English governmental Department of Art, Media and Sport, is an organization entirely devoted to funding the arts, performing, visual and literary. In total, the council currently funds 880 arts organizations and events. In September, “Britain’s coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats proposed a budget that could cut arts spending by as much as 25 percent,” reports the New York Times, a move that would help reduce the country’s budget deficit.

It’s still not clear where the budget cuts will lead, but it’s clear that artists and art organizations are speaking up against the disastrous impact the cuts could have.