The Guggenheim Museum is an artwork museum located in New York City and was established by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1939. The building that homes this museum was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is perceived as the temple of spirits. The Guggenheim 9 exclusive collections all combined in one area to facilitate the incorporation of new talents and also to whole critical historical gaps. The museum had three, controversial artworks that have been pulled down after drawing controversies all over. These three artworks included;
i. Theatre of the World which was done with the aid of Huang Yong Ping. It is a structure that resembles a cage and it is home to stay reptiles and insects coexisting in the natural life cycle. Inside the cage these insects and the reptiles battle one another to death. The theatre of the world is a two-part installation made up of The Bridge which is the section housing the reptiles and the Theatre of the World that resembles a tortoise-like cage.
ii. Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, a performance installation documented in 2003 is another artwork that was pulled down. It had two pit-bull dogs that were chained to trade mills and viciously attacking one another. This artwork was met by public outrage and it forced the Guggenheim to come out with a public statement regarding the concerns that the video raised.
iii. The third work to be pulled down was titled “A Case Study of Transference” which was documented by Xu Bing. It is a video that showed a boar and a sow engaging in sexual activity. The two animals are stamped with babble writings whose intention was to show the kind of relationship that existed between China and the West.
Reasons Why the Artworks were Taken Down
For example in “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other” the Guggenheim argued that its political and artistic context was inappropriate and that it aimed at criticizing the systems of power. They released the following statement regarding that particular piece of work, “Reflecting the artistic and political context of its time and place, Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other is an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control.”
In The Theatre of the World, the Guggenheim was worried about the possible provocation of violence that this exhibition would bring. They, therefore, released a statement stating that they were going to remove those particular sections from their show for purposes of peace and harmony. PETA also reiterated that most of these exhibits portrayed animal abuse and they, therefore, demanded that the artworks had to be pulled down.
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other
This exhibit has dogs on treadmills, running at one another but not allowed to come into contact. It was made in China and was not a live event. Contrary to claims by the Guggenheim, sun insisted that the dogs were never abused. In an interview with Paul Gladstone, Sun said the following, “Were the dogs being abused? The answer should be no. These dogs are naturally pugnacious. We only separated them and let them run on the treadmill, which became a sport for the dogs. For those who consider this animal abuse, I don’t understand what they are protesting about. In fact, human nature and animal nature are the same.”
Huang Yong Ping’s Theater of the World
This exhibition symbolized how humans just watch without doing anything while other humans consume each other with violence. This show, however, drew a lot of criticism from the public who were against the use of live animals. In fact, animal activists argued that this was a violation of animal rights. These protests eventually prompted the Guggenheim to pull down this particular work.
A Case Study of Transference by Xu Bing
This piece of artwork symbolized the West fixing the East. The pigs were in fact not compelled, but they were the right condition of “heat” for the representation of the artwork. The artwork was just a video that was never prohibited on social media platforms like YouTube. For these reasons, it was therefore ill-advised to ban these pieces of artwork.
“Huang Yong Ping. Theater of the World (1993) Artsy.” Artsy – Discover, Research, and Collect the World’s Best Art Online. Accessed December 4, 2017. https://www.artsy.net/artwork/huang-yong-ping-huang-yong-ping-theater-of-the-world.
“The Guggenheim’s Alexandra Munroe on Why? The Theater of the World? Was Intended to Be Brutal.” Artnet News. Last modified September 26, 2017. https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/alexandra-munroe-theater-of-the-world-interview-pt-1-1095470.
Brennan, Marcia. Curating consciousness: mysticism and the modern museum. MIT Press, 2010.
Helmore, Edward. “Can Mistreated Dogs Ever Be Considered Art?” The Guardian. Last modified October 4, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/29/can-mistreated-dogs-ever-be-considered-art.