"What hope is left for freedom in art?" By Jorge Perez Gomez
February 19, 2015
Gallery owner, Marc Straus & Founder of ESKFF, Eileen Kaminsky respond to a petition launched on Change.org against the Jumex Foundation for considering artist Hermann Nitsch, "mutilates, slaughters, murders, and lastly displays the bodies of sentient animals."
MARC STRAUS, my gallery, just announced that we represent Hermann Nitsch shortly before we learned that Museo Jumex in Mexico City made the decision to cancel Nitsch’s February exhibition under pressure from an on-line anti-Nitsch petition. The timing is exquisite.
I have been collecting art seriously since beginning medical school and many of our purchases along the years were severely criticized by individuals who had very narrow views of what art is or should be; works by Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Jeff Koons, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano. The cancelation of Mapplethorpe and Serrano shows under similar public pressure proved to be shameful acts by those institutions and directors who capitulated to such outside forces.
Hermann eloquently responded for himself and it has been almost twenty years since his performance included such a ritual. But no matter what care he took with the animals, the art itself would inevitably result in such antipathy. Not just because blood is used but because the action itself deals with core religious rituals.
Hermann is not antireligious. The Church is a part of his life. Yet can there be any greater evidence than recently that wonton slaughter occurs using religious rationale: brutality of Isis in the name of Islam and sordid periods in the history of Christianity as the Inquisition. Surely the reenactment of the Passion Play has instigated religious slaughter of others. And to bring such concerns to the moment is not the strapping of bombs around ones chest a form of ritual suicide and killing in the name of religion? Even so Nitsch’s work is less about such commentary than about ritual in religion.
For centuries The Catholic Church did not permit nudity in art except for the many examples depicting crucifixion, martyrology, or with exemptions for the statue of David, etc. People have too often denigrated art works because of their lack of understanding and prejudices as was the case of Mayor Giuliani and the Brooklyn Museum show. When certain groups with deep seeded prejudices assume power they burn books and art; the Nazis and now fanatical elements of Islam. They kill the publishers of Charlie Hebo. Could Nitsch be more timely?
Those signing a petition against a show by Hermann Ntisch would not be able to look objectively at the doctrinal art in museums in Mexico. They react to something that seems abhorrent that they don’t understand. That is sad but the real blame must be on Jumex. It is an art institution with a highly regarded contemporary collection. Look carefully at their inventory: look at art that slices lambs then puts in vitrines for ritual viewing.
Hermann Nitsch makes art from the heart, art that conflates beauty with ritual. At the end there are paintings, some of the most powerful abstract works in the past sixty years. His is an authentic and brave voice. His performances of old are neither crass nor anti-religious. It is commentary. It is about man’s need for ritual and how such rituals are replete with beautiful symbols.
I am so proud to represent his work.
-Marc J. Straus
Eileen S. Kaminsky
I think your response is well thought out and i totally agree
I am personally proud to own the work
I have met Hermann and his lovely wife Rita we took a tour of their castle. We received a lecture from Hermann on the thoughts behind his work and were satisfied that they were not sacrilegious, but a statement on culture, humanity, beliefs and ritual. Blood is the basis of life and history shows that it has been part of human expression from the beginning of recorded time. While animal slaughter is kept far from our current sanitized lives, it has played a large part of religious ritual though out history. Many artists have used blood as part of their artistic expression. Hermann is not alone in this practice.
Shocking as some of it is, I celebrate his creativity and artistic endeavors