December 13, 2004
Bush Portrait Draws Fire Over Details, Not Subject
By HOWARD O. STIER
John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times Christopher Savido with his portrait of President Bush.
Artwork in an exhibition that drew thousands to the Chelsea Market for its opening last week was abruptly taken down over the weekend after the market's managers complained about a portrait of President Bush fashioned from tiny images of chimpanzees, according to the show's curator.
Bucky Turco, who organized the show, said that a market director had expressed reservations about the Bush portrait, a small colorful painting by Christopher Savido that from afar appears to be a likeness of the president but viewed up close reveals chimps swimming in a marshy landscape.
"I approached them with the idea of bringing an edgy show by emerging artists here. I showed them an issue of our magazine, and they were psyched," said Mr. Turco, publisher of Animal, a quarterly publication with offices in the market that features photographs and graphics inspired by urban culture.
Mr. Turco said that while he had cleared the work to be hung with Irwin Cohen, a director of Chelsea Market, the management took issue with the image of Bush.
"When we hung the show on Wednesday, we were asked to take down the Bush piece," he said. "I agreed but said I thought it makes a strong addition and I would re-hang it for the opening."
Mr. Turco did that, and last Thursday, the meandering hallway of the market on Manhattan's West Side filled with a gallery crowd of artists, models and rap singers. But the presence of a disc jockey and open bar created a nightclub milieu. That provoked another person who helps manage the market, Mr. Turco said.
"The party's over right now," Mr. Turco said the market worker told him before calling security to clear the crowd.
"I said, 'Let's walk and talk this over,' and when we passed Chris's painting, he flipped," Mr. Turco said. "If I didn't take the show down he was going to have me arrested, seize the art, and evict me from of my office," he said. Mr. Turco delivered a contrite letter to the market management the following day but was forced to remove the 60 art works, photos and paintings on Saturday, about a month before the show was supposed to end. The offices of Around the Clock Management were closed over the weekend and there was no response yesterday to repeated messages to a market representative.
The 23-year-old artist at the center of the controversy had been excited about the show. Mr. Savido said, "It's a portrait-slash-landscape and the monkeys just seemed to make sense. I saw one woman gave it the finger but I think it wasn't directed at the painting.""I came to New York to express myself," said Mr. Savido, 23, of Pittsburgh. "I would never have expected this censorship to happen here. I really feel powerless."
The offending painting is on display temporarily at the magazine's small gallery on East Ninth Street.
"I'm hoping to find a sympathetic gallery to put on this show," Mr. Turco said. "I don't like being censored."
Most people at the market yesterday seemed indifferent to the empty Plexiglas display panels, but Rebecca Benhayon, 23, an actress, who was reading at a cafe table yesterday, expressed disappointment. "It's the architecture and the art that make this place so interesting," she said. "Taking the show down because someone didn't like an image seems oppressive. It's un-American."
I think it is kind of funny.
But it shows you just what this election has done. Before, where a picture of Clinton with a McD's fry box would have been scoffed at, but generally tolerated, even having a monkey NEXT to a picture of GWB will get people so angry they will start yelling and screaming.
Basically, he insulted the conservatives holy leader. How shameful.
I see you! Above left eyebrow, right?Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp
That's it. The twinkle in Bush's eye is me laughing.
I'm laughing, but this is deadly serious. What on earth is next?
You look like the twinkle in his eyebrow there zip!
But as for this issue, it is just plain sad.
The next Bush portrait should be a little more subdued in the chimp reference, but should not forget the halo that his followers keep trying to put above his head.
I really don't think that Bush policies have anything to do with this. We had the same sort of stuff during the Clinton administration (Giuliani and the Brooklyn Museum). I would be more concerned if this happened at a mall with Wal Mart the anchor.
In my opinion, just a case of a manager who put on the wrong size underwear that morning.
That is what I am saying.
This is not a direct Bush policy or position, but the sad state theat we are in that make these people so vehement in their views that something as innocuous as this would be treated with such vehement distain.
I mean, it's not like he took a bad painting of GWB and put elephant dung on it or anything!!!!
It may not be Bush policies that are directly censoring this poster, but since the poster is, as the article describes, an "expression of the artist's frustrations with the current presidential administration" and it was subsequently censored, it seems fitting nevertheless.
From the BBC
December 22, 2004
New life for Bush monkey poster
Bush Monkeys by Chris Savido
A controversial portrait of President George W Bush, formed using monkey heads, has been projected on a giant billboard in Manhattan.
Chris Savido's acrylic painting, Bush Monkeys, prompted gallery managers to close down a 60-piece show at New York's Chelsea Market last week.
Anonymous donors subsequently paid for the picture to be posted over the entrance to Holland Tunnel for a month.
Some 400,000 drivers are expected to see the billboard each day.
The small painting appears to be a portrait of Mr Bush but on closer inspection is made up of monkey heads in marshes.
Managers of Chelsea Market have refused to be drawn on why the original exhibition was closed down but their decision has provoked accusations of censorship.
The organisers of the original exhibition, art publishers Animal Magazine, said it had been contacted by anonymous donors who wanted it to be seen by a larger audience.
"What has surprised everyone is that this image was considered controversial," Animal said in a statement.
"Bush Monkeys, by any measure, is an intelligent, civil and beautiful expression of the artist's frustrations with the current presidential administration. It is a wonderful example of responsible and effective political criticism."
The painting is now being sold on internet auction site eBay to raise money for a charity which donates money to parents of US soldiers who want to supply their children with body armour in Iraq.
The charity is close to 23-year-old Savido's heart as he says he has many friends serving in Iraq.
Money will also be raised for arts education in deprived areas.
Bidding has so far reached $4,000 (£2,067).
Last edited by Kris; March 2nd, 2005 at 10:01 AM.
Report: Kids wrong about Bill of Rights
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON - The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be such a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.
It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to many of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a study of high school attitudes released yesterday.
The original amendment to the Constitution is the cornerstone of the way of life in the U.S., promising citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly.
Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.
"These results are not only disturbing, they are dangerous," said Hodding Carter, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which sponsored the $1 million study. "Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation's future."
The students are even more restrictive in their views than their elders, the study says.
When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97% of teachers and 99% of principals said yes. Only 83% of students did.
The results also reflected indifference, with almost three in four students saying they took the First Amendment for granted or didn't know how they felt about it. It was also clear that many students do not understand what is protected by the bedrock of the Bill of Rights.
Three in four students said flag burning is illegal. It's not. About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet. It can't.
"Schools don't do enough to teach the First Amendment. Students often don't know the rights it protects," Linda Puntney, executive director of the Journalism Education Association, said in the report.
The partners in the project, including organizations of newspaper editors and radio and television news directors, share a clear advocacy for First Amendment issues.
The survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut, is billed as the largest of its kind. More than 100,000 students, about 8,000 teachers and more than 500 administrators at 544 public and private high schools took part in early 2004.
The study suggests that students embrace First Amendment freedoms if they are taught about them and given a chance to practice them, but schools don't make the matter a priority.
Originally published on February 1, 2005
© Copyright The New York Daily News, 2005