Issue 77, Spring 2000

The Brooklyn Museum of Art settled its court case over the Sensation art exhibit at the end of March, ending an acrimonious battle with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The mayor had attempted to cut off city funding, to evict the museum, and to remove its directors because he considered “blasphemous” an Ofili painting of the Virgin Mary (Censorship News 75). In the resolution (which adds another pearl to the long string of First Amendment cases that the mayor has lost), the city has agreed to pay an additional $5.8 million for repairs to the museum over the next two years. (NCAC had joined an amicus brief on behalf of the Museum).
Mayor Giuliani’s reaction to the Sensation exhibit stimulated a satirical installation from artist Hans Haacke, now on display at the Whitney Museum of Art Biennial Exhibit in New York. The provocative artwork, Sanitation, links the current culture wars to the banning of “degenerate” art in Munich in 1937. It displays the text of the First Amendment along with quotations in Nazi-style script from Patrick Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Jesse Helms and Mayor Giuliani and is surrounded by garbage cans blaring the sounds of marching troops. So far the controversy over Sanitation has not evoked a peep from Mayor Giuliani.