Censorship in the artwork world was very much alive in 2017. Though most of the exhibitions and infractions mentioned occurred in locations where censorship is common, it shines the spotlight on how how censorship in the art world has continued to increase.
In September, a far-right team in Brazil petitioned to shut down an exhibition referred to as Queermuseum, after conservative critics accused it of merchandising blasphemy and paedophilia. The exhibition brought collectively 263 works with eighty-five artists and sought to explore the work of marginalized cultural practitioners in exploring queer narratives.
It included artists Lygia Clark, Cândido Portinari, and José Leonilson. Not long after the opening at Santander Cultural in Porto Alegre, the gallery closed the exhibition.
In October, two works in Beijing by artist Zhao Bandi had been censored. The two pieces, “Night View” (2015) and “Scenery with Cameras” (2015) have been censored by immigration authorities. They have also been barred from coming into America.
In China, it’s no secret that mass surveillance is ubiquitously intrusive and widespread. In December, the BBC reported that China is constructing what it calls “the world’s largest camera surveillance network” with 170 million CCTV cameras already in place and an estimated four hundred million new ones to be mounted in the next three years. That’s a lot more tech than even the most cutting-edge online casino Dubai has to offer.
In June, a work entitled “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” (2017) by artist duo Lőrinc Borsos (Lilla Lőrinc, János Borsos), was removed from an exhibition known as Real Hungary at the Collegium Hungaricum in Vienna hours prior to the opening.
The work is a triptych featuring the Hungarian flag partly protected in black enamel paint. According to the artists, the director of the institution, Mária Molnár, decided “that political work may not be shown in the Hungarian Institute, in particular when it involved the desecration of country wide symbols”.
In October, European filmmakers and producers protested the removal of Magdalena Sroka, director of the Polish Film Institute. Sroka’s removal was introduced by using Poland’s tradition minister, Piotr Gliński, and testified to the increasingly dire nation of censorship in Poland, where the ruling Law and Justice party had taken measures to sack many of the directors of main cultural institutions who do no longer fall in line with authorities’ policy.
In May of 2017, students at Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts had to cover up copies of sculptures created by the college’s President. These had first been made for a community of shopping shops in Poland.
The sculptures had been to be part of an exhibition titled Dekadencja / Sklepik, a homage to Eufemia, a café located in the basement of the faculty that had closed that year. The school’s indifference to the petition triggered co-curators Agata Grabowska and Olga Rusinek to prepare the exhibition with copies of sculptures made by Myjak.
According to the curators, the exhibition was supposed to be “an expression of opposition to the thought of remodelling Eufemia in the spirit of profitability and putting market values above social and cultural values”. When it came time for opening, the curators were informed by attorneys for the Dekada commercial network that the copies were violating a registered trademark, resulting in a cover-up.