Polish museum reinstates banana artwork after social media backlash
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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.
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Z cyklu prac pt. ‘Szlag mnie zaraz trafi’ dzisiaj tribute dla Natalii Lach Lachowicz. Jak wiemy #bananwrogiemnarodu wiec jesli widzicie tutaj cos innego niz calkowicie ubrana kobiete spozywajaca owoc tropikalny to prosze pisac na adres MK a nie komentowac pod tym postem. From the cycle ‘Damn right I will’ that I’m starting as of today I present my tribute to Natalia LL who’s iconic work was taken down from the permanent collection of 20th and 21st century Polish art as apparently too controversial for public display. We are entering a new era of censorship by this ultra catholic rightwing Polish government which lets the Catholic Church to be in charge of sexual education and brainwashing of a young generation, who thinks gayness can be ‘cured’ and LGBT community, feminism and something they call ‘gender’ are pure (d)evil. I have never thought I would get into political debate with my art but maybe it is the time to take the lace gloves off. Watch this space. #bananowyprotest #bananagate #censorship #cenzura #sztukabezcenzury #muzeumnarodowe
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” #bananaselfie ” W piątek z Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie zostały usunięte prace Natalii LL "Sztuka konsumpcyjnya" i Katarzyny Kozyra "Pojawienie się Lou Salome". Stoi za tym nie kto inny jak nasz kochany Minister Kultury, Piotr Gliński. „To jest Muzeum Narodowe i pewna tematyka z zakresu gender nie powinna być explicite pokazywana” – powiedzial w uzasadnieniu decyzji o zdjęciu prac Jerzy Miziołek, Nowy Dyrektor Muzeum Narodowego. Pokażmy, że sztuki nie da się zniewolić. Zrób selfiaka z bananem i oznacz #bananaselfie . Może i jesteśmy w dupie i się w niej urządziliśmy, ale za to z ładnymi obrazami na ścianach! #bananaselfie #sztukabezcenzury #waraodsztuki #muzeumnarodowe #nataliall #katarzynakoziara
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 Onet.pl 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.