Hardback with jacket
24.5 x 18 cm (9.75 x 7.25 in)
Published in the UK September 2021
Published in the US September 2021
The Madonna, the Mayor, the Media, and the First Amendment
Death and bomb threats over an art exhibition! A major battle with the mayor of New York City and the New York Times! In retrospect, Arnold Lehman, the Director of the Brooklyn Museum, and his colleagues had not been prepared for the huge controversy surrounding the staging in 1999–2000 of SENSATION: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection. The show, which drew on the contemporary art collection of Charles Saatchi and featured the provocative work of such artists as Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman, and Marc Quinn, swept the museum to international attention for six months. It has taken Lehman two decades to fully absorb and reflect on events, and this book – illustrated with some of the best-known artworks from SENSATION, as well as archival imagery – is his very personal account of what happened. While 175,000 people saw the exhibition and millions read and heard about it daily, they never knew of the threats and challenges that kept the museum staff awake at night. Mayor Rudy Giuliani expressed outrage at Chris Ofili’s painting The Holy Virgin Mary (1996), a black Madonna with a breast composed of elephant dung, set against a background featuring images cut out from pornographic magazines. When Giuliani rescinded the museum’s municipal funding and attempted to evict it from its city-owned building, the museum sued the city and the mayor for violating its First Amendment rights. The city’s most conservative media and ultra-religious groups inflamed the conflict. The situation for Lehman become even more difficult when the New York Times accused the museum of wrongdoing in high-profile but often inaccurate investigative reports. In a tale as gripping as a fictional thriller, SENSATION is the inside story of one the biggest controversies in art history.
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