‘Controversial art should not be avoided’

Gallery that removed gay artist's work: 'Controversial art should not be avoided'

Artist Paul Yore | Photo: Instagram @paul.yore

Mostyn, an art gallery in Wales, is responding after they removed a gay artist’s collage following accusations of homophobia.

Last week on 16 July, the gallery took down Australian artist Paul Yore’s collage, Taste the Feeling.

Yore’s work features images of far-right figures and phrases like ‘God hates fags’. Hate groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church frequently use this type of language.

In Yore’s own words to Gay Star News, his piece ‘asserts a radical queer subjectivity’, which ‘reflects a debased socio-political context within which spectacle has replaced meaningful dialogue’.

‘I grew up queer in a staunchly Catholic household,’ Yore said of his childhood in Australia. ‘And my work is my therapy for dealing with a society in which homosexuality is still viewed as aberrant.’

Visitors to the gallery’s Open 21 exhibit, however, began issuing complaints to both the gallery and police that the collage put forth homophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments.

The college can be seen in the Instagram post below:

View this post on Instagram

Honoured to have my work included in the wonderful MOSTYN Open 21 exhibition, showing from 13th July 2019 @mostyngallery Selected Artists: David Birkin, Rudi J.L. Bogaerts, John Bourne, Alexandre Camarao, Javier Chozas, Martyn Cross, Eugenia Cuellar, Jessie Edwards-Thomas, Sarah Entwistle, Expanded Eye, Julia R. Gallego, David Garner, Thomas Goddard, Oona Grimes, Georgia Hayes, Nick Hornby, Sooim Jeong, Nancy Jones, Adam Knight, Piotr Krzymowski, James Lewis, Neil McNally, Irene Montemurro, Anna Perach, Jessica Quinn, Ariel Reichman, William Roberts, Samantha Rosenwald, Klara Sedlo, Corinna Spencer, Chris Thompson, Richard Wathen, Paul Yore, Madalina Zaharia Image: Taste The Feeling, 2017 Mixed media appliqued textile, comprising found materials, recycled fabrics, wool, beads, sequins, needlepoint, buttons, cotton thread 220cm x 217cm #textileart #quilting #contemporaryart #gaypride #abject #lowbrow #queer #mostynopen21 #MOSTYNOpen #mostyngallery  #orielmostyn  @anna_perach @javier.chozas @julia.r.gallego @jessieedwardsthomas @corinnaspencer @sarahentwistle_studio @r.j.l_bogaerts @william_j_roberts @_davidbirkin @martyncross @christhomp1991 @georgiaurquharthayes @jameslewissiwelsemaj @arielreichman @alexandre_camarao @sooim_jeong @piotrkrymowski @klarasedlo @mada_zah @adamrknight @nickhornbyartist @samanth_jr @richardwathenstudio @thomas_goddard @paul.yore

A post shared by ☆PAUL YORE☆ (@paul.yore) on

Defending controversial art

GSN reached out to MOSTYN Director Alfredo Cramerotti.

‘I am – we are all – upset by what’s happened,’ he responded promptly.

Cramerotti explained the piece was removed ‘following concerns around the safety of MOSTYN staff and the security of the work itself’ and ‘aggressive behaviour from some members of the public’.

North Wales Police Officers witnessed the incident and began investigating the art’s installation as ‘breaching public order’.

Cramerotti ultimately defended Yore’s artwork.

‘It is not uncommon for contentious queer works to be censored even before reaching exhibition,’ he explained. ‘We are currently in an age of populism where radical positions are avoided and simpler narratives are preferred. As far as I am concerned, I don’t think controversial works should be avoided.

‘Many more people enjoyed and appreciated the work than complained about it, and we have to remember this. A few people took deep offence at the work, and quickly moved from words to action. That’s when I stepped in.’

He further acknowledged the ‘challenging language’ in Yore’s piece. He then noted, however, the wording Yore chose is ‘not invented, it is actual language used regularly against people in the Queer community and I think like many cultural movements that are happening, it is good that artists like Paul Yore are reclaiming that language and making it their own’.

Cramerotti similarly tried to explain accusations of anti-Semitism.

‘With regards to the perceived antisemitism, if you saw the work I think we can agree this is not the case,’ he said. ‘The inclusion of a swastika is not simply a symbol of far-right agenda. Paul Yore’s is an anti-anti-semitic work – subversive, yet I understand that this might be open to misinterpretation.’

Where does art go from here?

Cramerotti said the gallery ‘will continue to support freedom of expression and advocate artist practices from LGBTIQA+ communities’ and ‘discuss how to raise awareness for LGBTIQA+ perspectives’.

Perhaps most pressing, he also said MOSTYN will display information on Taste the Feeling and its removal.

‘We will display the interview, where the artist discusses the context for the artwork (in front of it), which was recorded on the launch of the exhibition, as well as the original label describing in full the work, and an additional statement explaining why the work was removed from the wall and what was the process that led to such decision,’ he explained.

GSN followed up to clarify if this means the original art will be reinstated.

‘I understand the position of Paul – very well; and he can understand mine,’ Cramerotti concluded. ‘We strive to find a common ground in tackling this, because if even we – artists and curators, cultural producers and cultural institutions – cannot find a common ground to advance debate in society, then we are set up for failure before we even start.’

See also

‘Trans people are sacred’ billboard erected in Detroit

Meet the artist behind Chicago’s iconic #AmazingForAll sculpture

21 non-binary artists who are helping redefine the idea of gender


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