Afraid of offending blacks and Christians, the new director of the Detroit Institute of Arts has suspended an exhibit that included a Jesus figure wearing a condom and an artwork whose title contains a racial slur.
The exhibit, which also featured a vial of urine from Andres Serrano's highly publicized photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine, had been accepted by the museum two years ago. "I felt strongly I could not defend a couple of the pieces," said Graham Beal, who became director seven weeks ago and suspended the exhibit Friday, two days after it opened. "A couple of the pieces were surprises."
The exhibit, "Art Until Now," opened Wednesday. Beal said he did not see it until Thursday. Beal, in his previous job as director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, refused three times to exhibit the controversial "Sensation" show now on display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Jef Bourgeau, an artist who put together the Detroit exhibit, said such shock art is intended to make people think. "Part of the power of the work is to evoke discussion," he said. Museum officials are "trying to avoid controversy," he said. "They wouldn't reason with me."
Beal said Bourgeau refused to change the exhibit. Bourgeau said he was willing to make some changes, but did not want to remove pieces the museum did not consider "safe."
Museum official Jim Boyle said the exhibit is on hold while Beal reviews it and discusses aspects of it with the artists.