Unsettling 'Sensation': Arts-Policy Lessons from the Brooklyn Museum of Art Controversy

Overview

In September 1999, Sensation, an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, opened its doors, igniting a controversy still burning in the art world. This collection of cutting-edge art from the Saatchi collection in England, and the museum’s arrangements with Charles Saatchi to finance the show, so offended New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani that he attempted to shut the museum down by withholding city funds that are crucially needed by that institution. Only a legal ruling prevented him from doing so. Like the Robert ...

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Overview

In September 1999, Sensation, an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, opened its doors, igniting a controversy still burning in the art world. This collection of cutting-edge art from the Saatchi collection in England, and the museum’s arrangements with Charles Saatchi to finance the show, so offended New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani that he attempted to shut the museum down by withholding city funds that are crucially needed by that institution. Only a legal ruling prevented him from doing so. Like the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition before it, Sensation once again raises questions about public spending for “controversial” art, but with the added dimension of religious conflict and charges of commercialization.

The contributors to this volume use the Sensation exhibition as a stepping-stone to analyze larger questions such as the authority the government has to withhold funds, various interpretations of the First Amendment, how to respect divergent cultural and religious values; and the economic stake of museums and dealers in art. In their articles—written expressly for this volume, and spanning the disciplines of law, cultural studies, public policy, and art—the contributors consider issues at the center of arts policy. They propose various legal strategies, curatorial practices, and standards of doing business intended to serve the public interest in the arts. 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813529356
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2001
  • Series: Rutgers Series: The Public Life of the Arts
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,061,579
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Lawrence Rothfield is an associate professor of English and comparative literature and director of the Cultural Policy Program at the University of Chicago.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Introduction: The Interests in "Sensation" 1
The Brooklyn Controversy: A View from the Bridge 15
The Marriage of Art and Business 22
The Questions of Free Speech 29
Culture and the Constitution: A Guide for the Perplexed 32
The False Promise of the First Amendment 44
Reasons We Shouldn't Be Here: Things We Cannot Say 52
Who Should Pay (for the Arts and Culture)? Who Should Decide? And What Difference Should It Make? 72
The Subjunctive Mood of Art 93
An All-Too-Predictable Sensation 96
Sensational or Status Quo: Museums and Public Perception 104
Offending Images 115
The Attitude of the Audience for "Sensation" and of the General Public toward Controversial Works of Art 134
Shop Value 155
"Sensation" and the Ethics of Funding Exhibitions 162
Some Sensational Reflections 171
Don't Shoot the Messenger: Why the Art World and the Press Don't Get Along 181
Afterword 199
About the Contributors 207
Index 211
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