Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Whitechapel Gallery... The importance of Self-censorship

According to stories published by Le Monde in Paris last week, the director of the Whitechapel Gallery, Iwona Blazwick, was accused by the French curator Agnes de la Baumelle of removing material from its current exhibition of works by surrealist Hans Bellmer by fear of offending Muslims - especially the large East London Bangladeshi community.

"The motive was simply to not shock the population of the Whitechapel neighborhood, which is partly Muslim," said Agnes de la Baumelle to Reuters. "It surprised me because Bellmer's work is very well known. She already knew it well and by committing to take our exhibition she must have known what would be on the walls," she added. "I tried to protest," she also said, adding that the move was "a little excessive but there's no need to make a fuss about it."

The gallery issued a statement saying that some works were not included in the exhibition because of space constraints. The Centre Pompidou, Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris, issued another statement confirming that, as a result of the smaller space available for the exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, the whole selection of works displayed at the institution in Paris could not be shown in London. They added that the Bellmer works that are not included in the display in London are no more or less shocking for certain visitors than those that are in the show.

A few minutes ago, the Whitechapel Gallery agreed to let us film the exhibition for 18 Doughty Street, but then changed its mind when asked if Iwona Blaswick would comment on the affair on camera. 'If you come for that story - it's a false report and we can't let you film', said a spokeswoman.

Self-censorship or censorship... A hazy fog seems to have enveloped Whitechapel when it comes to this.

If you know of any other examples of self-censorship, we would be delighted to hear from you.

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