Friday 23 August 2019

Ban on banana-eating artwork draws ridicule in Poland

The work had been in the gallery for many years.

People with bananas demonstrate with others outside Warsaw’s National Museum (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)
People with bananas demonstrate with others outside Warsaw’s National Museum (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

By Monika Scislowska, Associated Press

Poland’s artists and opposition politicians are posting photos of themselves eating bananas in protest after authorities called an artwork featuring the fruit obscene and removed it from a top national gallery.

The 1973 video Consumer Art, by prominent artist Natalia LL, showing a young woman eating a banana with great pleasure, was removed from the National Museum in Warsaw last week after the new museum head, Jerzy Miziolek, was summoned to the Ministry of Culture.

Mr Miziolek said in an interview with the Onet.pl portal last week that he was “opposed to showing works that could irritate sensitive young people” and suggested some visitors had complained.

The work had been in the gallery for many years.

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A man demonstrates outside Warsaw’s National Museum (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

A separate 2005 video by another controversial female artist, Katarzyna Kozyra, showing a woman walking two men dressed as dogs on a lead, was also removed.

On Monday, Mr Miziolek announced that the works would be reinstated, but only until May 6, when the whole modern art gallery is due for reorganisation.

He denied pressure from the ministry.

Mr Miziolek, who was appointed to the state-run museum by the right-wing government in November, said he appreciated the role of both artists in Poland’s culture, but the gallery’s limited space requires “creative changes” to the exhibition.

The dispute is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding art and culture under the conservative and nationalist government that won power in 2015.

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(Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Culture Minister Piotr Glinski has repeatedly drawn criticism for cutting subsidies to art festivals that were planning to show controversial theatre plays on Catholic themes.

Mr Glinski has fired a popular theatre director who criticised him as well as the director of a World War II museum, saying the exhibition did not show Poland’s suffering or heroism enough.

He recently cut funds for the European Solidarity Centre, an exhibition and culture centre popular with government critics, saying its activity went beyond its history-teaching mission.

Twitter and Facebook users ridiculed the removal of the art works as narrow-minded and a case of censorship, and many posted photos of themselves enjoying bananas.

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Polish actress Magdalena Cielecka aims a banana like a gun at her head (Dario Salina/AP)

Actress Magdalena Cielecka told The Associated Press that the image she posted, of her pointing a banana at her head like a gun, was in protest against any ideological or political limits put on artists.

“An artist, to create, must be free,” Ms Cielecka said.

Art critics note that Consumer Art was a critical comment on food shortages under communist rule in the 1970s.

PA Media

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