23 Sep, 2009

Glasgow’s sex and art row rumbles on

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

There has been a tremendous kerfuffle at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art. Its current exhibition, sh[OUT] – which focuses on lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex life, and features, among others, work by Nan Goldin and David Hockney – has been the subject of a vitriolic campaign by the Daily Mail. The paper has branded it a “gay porn” show and even, bizarrely, managed to get the Vatican to condemn one exhibit, Made in God’s Image, in which visitors were invited to write comments on the pages of a Bible. This work caused a furore, attracting over 600 complaints that the work desecrated the Bible. The controversy was dampened after a decision was made to show the Bible in a display case, letting visitors write contributions on loose-leaf sheets.

The latest episode, however, concerns artist Dani Marti, who withdrew all his work from the exhibition after GoMA decided not to show two films by him alongside his main piece. There have been accusations of censorship, but a spokesman for Culture and Sport Glasgow denied this, saying the films were not part of the original commission, and that Marti was offered the opportunity to show them at Tramway, another venue across town.

The films contain sexually explicit material and references to drug-taking. “GoMA is a city-centre venue where we don’t tend to have work that’s sexually explicit,” said the spokesman, “whereas Tramway does have work on the cutting edge that is suitable for an adult audience. GoMA has a family audience.”

New York drag king Diane Torr, an advisor to the show, has already expressed her “anger and outrage” at the handling of the situation in an open letter to Glasgow city council. According to Torr, the decision on Marti’s work was made because “there had to be some action taken” after the Mail campaign and subsequent complaints, and Marti is the “fall guy”. It’s a mess, whichever way you turn it.

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