What is going on with all the censored art? Case Study: Kanye West and David Pettibone


Working as the Curator of the Museum of Sex I know that I am particularly privileged not to have to deal with the censorship that is imposed both externally and internally at other museums and galleries. I understand the conflicts of public money and conservative donors in the same manner I understand artists trying to push boundaries and inspire debate. This very push and pull is one of the things that makes that big idea of art great, and the tool of sex so deeply a part of that relationship. I understand how very explicit sex representations are questionable for particular audiences, but why is the nude body or the semi nude body falling into that category?

In October 2010, Kanye West announced that the cover for  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by artist George Condo had been banned. Recently, The New Yorker's Calvin Tomkins wrote about Kanye's desire to commission a painting that would specifically be banned, and chose out of several options a picture of a "a painting of...a lurid scene of a naked black man on a bed, straddled by a naked white female creature with fearsome features, wings, no arms, and a long, spotted tail. West chose that one." Am I missing something, as other than a female nipple, which for some is a controversial sight, this is a lot less explicit than other images we are confronted with in the mainstream. Is there a subliminal penis in the background I'm missing?

Local artist, David Pettibone, recently reached out to me as his Time Out New York critic pick exhibition was being censored for his inclusion of nude paintings. His large nude paintings, featured above, were pulled from the show "out of fear of offending their clientele," according to Pettibone. While the nudes were on display for opening night, they had to be exchanged for non nude content for the continued duration of the show. Pettibone further described his suggestion to cover the nudes with black cloth so the decision to view the image would be an individual's decision, which was declined.

Artists, are you you being censored elsewhere? I want to hear your story.

To read more about the Kanye cover: http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/01/kanye_got_his_album_cover_bann.h...

To learn more about David Pettibone: www.davidpettibone.com