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Art for arts sake

To me it beggars belief that a court is restricting a gallery’s right to display a piece of artwork on the basis that it “offends” some indigenous people and their supporters.

click for source

I just can’t wait for someone to make the argument that artists should respect the beliefs of our indigenous people when they would not make the same arguments about art that draws upon the iconography of other faith traditions. As one commenter here was so keen to point out art is supposed to be about the transgressive and challenging accepted beliefs and ideas.

When I read the part of the piece that talks about the imagery of the sculpture being a “caricature”I could not fail to think about the court action about William Dobell’s entry in the Archibald prize and I remember correctly that claim failed and it was decided that his painting was not a caricature. What I think is happening here is the enforcement of a rather racist notion that only certain people may use the iconography of the indigenous art because I can’t help thinking that if the artist was claiming to be indigenous that there would be nothing but praise from those who are now so vociferously complaining…

More detail about the artist and this piece of work here

Cheers Comrades

Cue Zane Trow 😉


  1. Ray Dixon says:

    I’m not surprised that the Blue Mountains City Council would adopt a narrow, we-know-what’s-best attitude to local art, Iain. This is the same council that applied for Katoomba to become Australia’s first ever Cittaslow (slow town) about 4 years ago. Ciitaslow is an Italian based movement that sets rules & guidelines for cultural and environmental standards. It’s narrow-minded and retrograde in my opinion. As for the artwork itself, well, it just looks like a block of stone. And it’s tasteless. I guess if I stuck an ugly totem pole up in my front yard someone would take offence too but if my local council told me to take it down I’d tell them to get stuffed.

  2. Rossini says:

    if I were Christ I’d “piss on it”

  3. Craigy says:

    Beat me to it Rossini. Iain, should the ‘piss Christ’ have been taken down?


    My view is no, because it was in a gallery and you can warn those who might be offended.

    This is in the open, on public display…..If the intention was to offend (which is legitimate) then it should be only available to those who wish to see it.

    Why would you want to offend people, who don’t want to be offended, with your art, I don’t know. People can still see it if they want, behind a wall and a door.

    I guess this may reduce the offensive impact intended by the artist but it’s only art and the sky won’t fall if it is not in public view.

  4. Craigy says:

    Got a bit carried away with the commas….sorry.

  5. Iain Hall says:


    . Iain, should the ‘piss Christ’ have been taken down?

    In a word “No”
    If you take a look at the artist’s page that I link to it looks to me as if the very last thing that the artist wanted to do was to offend anyone, if anything it looks to me as if he was positively inspired by the the original indigenous iconography. You see I have always been struck by the rather strange way that those in the “indigenous industry” think that there should be special rules for their “traditional art” that excludes anyone else from being inspired to make new art that may be derivative of the originals. When you consider that modern art is almost all derivative of other art it is a somewhat racist attitude to claim that certain ideas and imagery should be kept exclusively for those with the appropriate skin colour.

  6. Craigy says:

    I don’t think it has anything to do with the mythical “indigenous industry” that Bolt has told you exists.

    Whenever any art that is offensive to people with religious conviction is displayed, someone will take offence, be they from an Australian, European or any other background.

    I agree with you on ’Piss Christ’, it should have stayed up, as it was in a gallery that you had to make a choice to enter.

    But you are happy to offend people by displaying offensive stuff in public, I’m not…. if there isn’t a good reason.

    I have much less problem with this, if as you say no offence was intended, and I imagine that if the artists spoke to the locals they would come to some agreement which might involve not displaying this in full public view. If however the artists are just trying to offend the locals to make a point about free speech or something, then it’s rude in my book.

  7. Iain Hall says:

    Its my understanding that it is someone form WA who is claiming offence here rather than any local

  8. Craigy says:

    ….The locals from WA, who are taking offence was my meaning.

    You are ‘on the money’ though, I didn’t see that this complaint is from another state…….leave it on display.

    It is still a bit crook though if they did this for a stir….don’t you think?

  9. Blinded by the headlights of knowledge says:

    And then again, if someone tried to fake a William Dobell and got caught, they’d be breaking the law, art fraud is a serious and lucrative business.


    There is far more to this little bit of the story than at first meets the eye.

    Cue fake outrage 🙂

  10. Iain Hall says:

    Anyone can paint in the style of Dobell, heck you can even legally make copies of his art work and sell them at your leisure, it only becomes an a fraud if you sign it as Dobell, There is nothing fraudulent about this art work as far as I can see Zane if there is “more to this than at first meets the eye” then please explain 😉

  11. Blinded by the headlights of knowledge says:

    If you don’t get it now you are never going to Iain. It is very simple, but then again, so are you 😉

  12. Iain Hall says:

    Zane I certainly “get ” where you are coming from it is directly form PC central , strangely you are all for being transgressive in art until it is transgressing against the minorities that you wish to patronise, those you see as some sort of “noble victims” .

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