Knowledge Questions: What are the ethical limitations of artwork? To what extent are artists responsible for the reactions their work receives? What is the role of the audience in deciding the meaning of artwork? To what extent do the intentions of the artist matter in the interpretation of their work? What are the responsibilities of institutions in deciding what work is appropriate for display?
This is a topic that will never quite leave us. There are countless cases of “offensive” artwork and the reactions it gets. All of these provide great opportunities for TOK.
A Los Angeles School Planned to Whitewash a Mural That Offended Korean Activists—Until Shepard Fairey Stepped in to Defend It
Stanton’s work depicts the late actress Ava Gardner on a backdrop of blue and orange sun rays. It was targeted by Korean-American activists who complained that the sun-ray pattern is similar to that of the Japanese Imperial flag, which has become a symbol of the atrocities Japan committed before and during World War II, particularly in China and Korea. In response, the school district announced plans to cover it up.
Should Art That Infuriates Be Removed?
“Is the censorship, much less the destruction of art, abhorrent? Yes. Should people offended or outraged by an artwork or an exhibition mount protests? Absolutely. And might a museum have the foresight to frame a possibly controversial work of art through labels or programming? Yes, that, too. “
White Artist’s Painting of Emmett Till at Whitney Biennial Draws Protests
White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.” She added that “contemporary art is a fundamentally white supremacist institution despite all our nice friends.”
Met Defends Suggestive Painting of Girl After Petition Calls for Its Removal
“The Metropolitan Museum of Art will not remove a controversial painting by the French painter known as Balthus from public display.”
- How do we determine whether art is “appropriate”?
- How does context affect the meaning of art? Notice how the quote below makes mention of the “current climate.” Should the “current climate” affect what is allowed to be displayed in a museum?
“Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children,” it reads.
Is censorship of artwork ever appropriate? If so, under what circumstances?
“A controversial mural of Hillary Clinton will be allowed to remain after the artist modified it from depicting the politician in a revealing swimsuit to one where she is wearing a burqa instead.”
These High School Murals Depict an Ugly History. Should They Go?
After hearing from both sides, the committee issued a statement that said the artwork “glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, Manifest Destiny, white supremacy, oppression, etc.” and does not represent the San Francisco school’s “values of social justice.”
Photograph that has attracted controversy for more than two decades attracts protests outside New York exhibition