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Serrano and the Swedes Disagree

Exhibit bashed art?

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After masked neo-Nazi vandals, armed with crowbars, axes, and a video camera (for a YouTube post, naturally), destroyed half of a Swedish exhibition of Andres Serrano photos called “The History of Sex,” the artist wanted to keep the slashed prints on display. “It’s important,” says Serrano, home in New York, “because the damaged works make a statement in and of themselves. It’s a different statement than the original intent of the work, but now the work has been transformed and politicized, and it’s important for people to be able to see the works that they’ve been reading about in the paper.” The Swedes wouldn’t allow it. “We don’t think it’s a very good thing to show the destruction,” says curator Viveca Ohlsson, likening doing so to a “favor for the Nazi people.” Only the undamaged photos are on display. “There are a lot of people who are only interested in seeing the destruction. They are not so interested in the art.” (They showed the damaged work on October 21, after a panel discussion.) Besides, “to be able to have the exhibition open, we have to have guards. The Nazis have told us that they will come again. And we can’t afford it.” Already, the museum has cut the exhibition times to two hours a day. “It is nerve-racking,” says Ohlsson. “But we can’t let them win. They can’t decide what is going to be shown.” Serrano is much more sanguine: The photos can be reproduced, after all. “You can’t destroy it,” he says. He plans to put up one of the damaged pictures in his home. “It’s just another sign of how strong my work is sometimes,” he says. “That people get so upset about it that they feel they have to destroy it.”

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