What began as a heated protest over Enrique Chagoya’s artwork at the Loveland Museum in Colorado hasended in vandalism. A disgruntled woman ripped into Chagoya’s controversial lithograph "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals" after she busted the artwork’s plexiglass case with a crowbar. City council members, religious groups and individuals had hoped that the public pressure caused by the artwor’s racy religious content would get Chagoya’s piece yanked from the government-funded museum. Part of the lithograph appears to depict a Jesus Christ face on a female body receiving oral sex. The Loveland City Council met on Tuesday to discuss the issue, ultimately deciding not to intervene.
The following is a letter NCAC sent to the Loveland City Council:
October 5, 2010
I am writing on behalf of the National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance of over 50 national non-profit organizations united in defense of free expression. We advocate on behalf of artists whose work has been subject to censorship and educate communities about their First Amendment rights.
It is our understanding that the Loveland Museum has come under pressure from religious groups and individuals asking for the removal of a work by artist Enrique Chagoya from an exhibition. It appears that there are calls for City Council to intervene and have the work removed.
Confronted with a forcefully expressed viewpoint that stands in opposition to their deeply held beliefs, people often react emotionally by being offended. In accordance with the U.S. Constitution, however, those who disagree are free to express their outrage, but cannot impose their viewpoint on everybody else. There are many ways to express disagreement with the ideas expressed in an artwork, which do not entail going against the founding principles of this country: the separation of church and state and the right to free speech.
To remove the work would be a violation of the artist’s constitutional rights and the community’s right to access a wide diversity of ideas. For City Council to take action leading to the removal of the work would expose the City of Loveland to possible liability for violating the First Amendment. As you may remember, in 1999 New York City Mayor Giuliani attempted to pull city funding from the Brooklyn Museum in response to its "Sensation" exhibit. He found one of the paintings in the show, Chris Ofili’s "Holy Virgin Mary" – a work, which similarly to Chagoya’s piece, used imagery from popular culture along with sacred symbols – offensive to Catholics. A federal district court judged that Giuliani’s attempt violated the First Amendment.
Please let me know if you have any concerns or questions.
Director of Programs
National Coalition Against Censorship