Arts & Culture
SHERMAN | Animals as Metaphors and a ‘Cruelty-Free’ Guggenheim
If, for the past couple of weeks, you’ve been following either the art world’s murmurings or the Most Popular Petition category on change.org, you would be well aware of the Guggenheim’s recent Animal Rights-related quagmire, a tiff with PETA advocates which resulted, on Sept. 25, in the removal of three pieces from its fall blockbuster exhibition. Whether or not you’ve been keeping close tabs on both, you likely missed the fact that the show in question, Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World, opened to the public this past Friday, Oct. 6. What reviews it has received have been, for the most part, somewhere between tepid and enthusiastically restrained (or else just petty), colored by and large by the Guggenheim’s milquetoast reaction and concession to those accusing it of complicity in animal rights violations. The 70 artist, 140 work-strong exhibition, which was supposed to be a milestone for U.S. reception and awareness of contemporary art from Chinese artists (Holland Cotter, in his review for the New York Times, calls it a show capable of reminding us that the country of 1.4 billion has given the world more than Ai Weiwei), has, it seems, been too profoundly marred by the museum’s willingness to nix some art at a cry of “Wolf!” This cry began in the form of a change.org petition — written by Stephanie Lewis, directed at the Guggenheim’s curators, administrators and corporate sponsors and subsequently backed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — which garnered nearly 800,000 signatures.