Guggenheim Pulls Works from Show

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Activists claimed works promote animal cruelty


  • Animal rights activists gathered in front of the Guggenheim Museum on Sept. 23 to protest the planned exhibition of controversial works of art involving animals. Photo: Edita Birnkrant

  • Animal rights activists gathered in front of the Guggenheim Museum Sept. 23 to protest the planned exhibition of controversial works of art involving animals. Photo: Edita Birnkrant

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has pulled three controversial works of art from an upcoming exhibition in response to sustained criticism from animal rights activists, who claim that the pieces promote cruelty against animals.

The exhibition, entitled “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World” and scheduled to open October 6, was slated to feature several works involving animals, including dogs, insects and pigs. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets) and other animal rights groups demanded that the museum remove the pieces from the show in a protest in front of the museum on September 23 and an online petition that received more than 630,000 signatures as of September 26.

The Guggenheim issued a statement on September 25 announcing that the works would not be displayed in the exhibition “[o]ut of concern for the safety of its staff, visitors, and participating 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's statement read. “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.”

Among the three pieces pulled from the exhibition is a video installation showing dogs trying to fight each other. The video, entitled “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other,” is a recording of a 2003 Beijing art piece that had four pairs of American pit bulls on opposing treadmills charging at each other but not touching. The Guggenheim said that the piece is intentionally provocative and the dogs in the video were not harmed, while animal rights supporters said the video showed animal abuse.

“We hope that other art institutions and museums take note of the fact that there is little public tolerance for art that harms animals,” Edita Birnkrant, the executive director of NYCLASS, said in a statement after the Guggenheim announced that the works would be pulled.

—with The Associated Press

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