Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year in Jersalem:NOT

Heroic Symbol, Photograph, Anslem Kiefer

I am not an expert on Anslem Kiefer. I know about him as much as the next person who is involved in the art world! Art critics have written about Anslem’s art ad nauseum! And the incident at the Gagosian has been covered by every one of the major publications, including NY Times. So why do I need to write about this? I frankly don't but since like everyone else, I have an opinion about everything, I thought I might as well air them!
Peaceful Activists at the Gagosian Gallery
Kiefer's art has always struck me as sensationalist at best. Born at the end of WWII, he portrays himself as being the bastard offspring of the Third Reich, with strong identity issues. I have still not been able to decide whether he was actually commenting on the Nazi culture by donning the  Nazi uniform and doing a Hitler salute or was that just a twenty something artists’ way to get attention (this was in the ‘60s)! According to the artist, these self portraits were his attempts to make his countrymen confront their shameful past. Whatever his motives, he comes back again and again to the same subject matter. 

The newest exhibition “New Year in Jerusalem" at the Gagosian gallery, NY, explores the same theme of devastation unleashed by the absolute State. Ironically, the events that unfolded at the  Gagosian, made the theme of the show a mockery! On December 18th, the closing day of the show, the gallery workers decides to mix things up by unleashing the NYPD on a few unsuspecting activists. These anti-war activists were not doing anything other than donning black t-shirts with “New Year in Jerusalem” written on them in English, Hebrew and Arabic. They were going round looking at the art or conversing with people who approached them with questions, nothing to disturb the peace in the gallery. The NYPD gleefully shoved and manhandled the activists and an officer eventually ended up hurting a German woman who was not even one of the activists! This incident would not have been so disturbing if it did not come right after the incident at the Smithsonian, where recently a silent activist was thrown out for showing the video Fire in My Belly on his Ipad.
The two incidents are quite different from each other in scope but are they that different when it comes to our right to expression and peaceful assembly? I would understand completely if the Gagosian wanted the activists out, were they making trouble for the other gallery goers. But it seems to me that the gallery does not know the meaning of peaceful assembly. Apparently the activists were told that  they were causing trouble in a place of business. But looking at art and making a commentary(they were silent!) on them does not seem like disrupting someone’s business! Maybe I don’t understand what is going on in the larger art world, where museums and galleries feel they need to put up a show of power!

I really want to make sense of what is happening in the art world!

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