BERLIN GALLERY HARASSED BY MUSLIMS

By Gabriel Thy • Art Theory • 2 Mar 2008

A BERLIN GALLERY has temporarily closed an exhibition of satirical works by a group of Danish artists after six Muslim youths threatened violence unless one of the posters depicting the Kaaba shrine in Mecca was removed, it said on Thursday.

The Galerie Nord in central Berlin said it had closed its “Zionist Occupied Government” show of works by Surrend, a group of artists who say they poke fun at powerful people and ideological conflicts. Four days after the exhibition opened, a group of angry Muslims stormed into the gallery, shouting demands that one of the 21 posters should be removed, said the gallery.“They were very aggressive and shouted at an employee that the poster should be taken down otherwise they would throw stones and use violence,” the gallery’s artistic director Ralf Hartmann told Reuters. The Muslims objected to a depiction of the Kaaba—the ancient shrine in Mecca’s Grand Mosque which Muslims face to say their prayers—which gave a “bitingly satirical commentary against radicalism,” said the gallery in a statement.

To his credit, Hartmann has said the gallery was working with German authorities to improve security and he hoped to re-open the show as soon as possible.“It would be unacceptable if individual social groups were in a position to exercise censorship over art and the freedom of expression,” said the gallery in a statement.

It’s about time some Western artists stepped up to the plate on this issue. This is a very serious issue, and since I am in the arts myself, a humble painter in Washington, DC, I know that few “political” artists are tackling the Islamic problem with anything more than smug indifference.

In fact, just the opposite position rules. Sadly, 95% of the art being created today in this most political of cities, and I speak from the underground art movement, is frivolous and redundant, lost in fairy tales and harmless charm, and anything remotely “controversial” and it’s not anymore because how many times can Christianity or homophobia or the president be attacked in the generic way that artists depict their hyperventilated disgust with religion, sexual mores, or politics, and it still be new, iconoclastic, or controversial? But with all the world in flames and blood, hovering at the brink of financial crisis, most of the “ruthless honesty” work is anti-American at worst, anti-war (lofty) at best, and nothing is ever presented that even hints of global incrimination due the jihadists and their copious allies strutting about in shepherd’s clothing and Brooks Brothers suits.

But what can be expected otherwise? The art world, unlike the more recently abducted halls of lower and higher education, has long been the high-browed bastion of the liberal cognoscente, and today’s system of wine-tasting galleries and its stiltifying air of mass dementia is now vigorously geared to the Left.

Scandal is often the fast track in the whirl to “make” an artist, but history probably proves that this model holds only if breaking “preferred” molds. Let’s hope Berlin doesn’t bend knee to this Islamic thuggery. It will only encourage more outrage. Don’t we all deserve better than this?

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