Published titles > Art > SENSATION
SENSATION cover image
UK £25.00
US $35.00
Hardback with jacket
248 pages
55 illustrations
24.5 x 18 cm (9.75 x 7.25 in)
ISBN: 978-1-8589-4696-2
The Madonna, the Mayor, the Media, and the First Amendment

Arnold Lehman

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 When Giuliani rescinded the museum’s municipal funding and attempted to evict it from its city-owned building, the museum sued the city and the mayor for violating its First Amendment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.


The inside story of the bitter battle between the Brooklyn Museum and the mayor and city of New York and the New York Times

Features works by such artists as Jake and Dinos Chapman, Damien Hirst, Ron Mueck, Chris Ofili, Marc Quinn and Jenny Saville

A fascinating and revealing read for anyone interested in contemporary art

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Author Profile

A bold and progressive museum director for more than 40 years, Arnold Lehman has always advocated for freedom of expression, diversity, social justice and accessibility. Under his guidance as Director, over 500 exhibitions were presented at the Brooklyn Museum and, earlier, at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He served in major cultural leadership roles nationally and in New York City throughout his distinguished career. Lehman (MA, Johns Hopkins University; MPhil and PhD, Yale University; DHL (Hon.) Pratt Institute) was a Ford Foundation Fellow and currently serves on numerous not-for-profit boards focused on culture, education and social justice. He chaired the board of Legg Mason Funds, where he served as a director for 40 years, and is presently a trustee of funds in the Franklin Templeton complex. He has been a Senior Advisor at Phillips auction house since 2015.

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