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Polish museum reinstates banana artwork after social media backlash

Left: "Consumer Art" by Natalia LL (posted on Facebook by the National Museum in Warsaw). Right: a "banana selfie" by Polish actress Magdalena Cielecka (@cielecka_magda.official/Instagram).
Left: "Consumer Art" by Natalia LL (posted on Facebook by the National Museum in Warsaw). Right: a "banana selfie" by Polish actress Magdalena Cielecka (@cielecka_magda.official/Instagram).
7 min


The National Museum in Warsaw on Monday walked back its decision to remove an artwork showing a young woman suggestively eating a banana after critics accused the museum of censorship.

The 1973 video by Polish artist Natalia LL was taken down last week, prompting a viral social media campaign in which people took photos of themselves eating bananas. On Monday, around a hundred people gathered in front of the museum to eat bananas in protest against the museum's decision.

Many artists and politicians posted so-called “banana selfies" online. Sylwia Kowalczyk, a Polish-born photographer who now lives in Scotland, denounced what she called a "new era of censorship led by the Polish government”.

Actress Magdalena Cielecka told the AP news agency that she posted a banana selfie to denounce the political and ideological constraints that many artists face. "An artist, to create, must be free,” she said.

Michal Szczerba, a member of the centrist Civic Platform party, said the public response was a “small success in the fight against artistic censorship”.

The video, titled "Consumer Art," and a second work by Katarzyna Kozyra depicting a woman walking two men on leashes were both returned to the museum's 20th and 21st century galleries on Monday.

But they will not be there long. Museum director Jerzy Miziolek said the works would be on display until May 6, when the entire modern art wing will be reorganised.

Miziolek, who was recently appointed to his post by the conservative government, had previously told the Polish news site that the works were removed because they could could "irritate sensitive young people". Miziolek denied that political pressure had influenced the decision to remove the works.

The minister of culture, Piotr Glinski, has been widely criticised for slashing funding to artistic institutions for political reasons. He cut subsidies to art festivals that planned to stage plays based on religious themes as well as to the European Solidarity Centre, an exhibition and cultural centre whose events have been critical of the government.

This story was written by Maëva Poulet.

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