Art's critical eye from outsideThe controversy over the...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

October 16, 1999

Art's critical eye from outside

The controversy over the British exhibit in the Brooklyn Museum of Art shows that people are still trying to make their personal opinions a public concern.

I don't understand why people still think they can define "art," and proceed to call it immoral.

In my opinion, art is, or should be, amoral. Art must not become entangled in popular, political or religious opinions; it should remain outside political bias, outside of religion and taboo.

It should analyze society, and try to give us greater understanding of our world.

I don't think it is up to anyone to decide in what way artists should do this.

Catholics, animal rights activists and other taxpayers undoubtedly have good intentions, but they really should pick their battles more carefully.

We have to distinguish between what is truly detrimental and what we just find immoral.

Bryna Zumer, Reisterstown

I'd like to compliment The Sun for its coverage of the Brooklyn Museum of Art's exhibition, "Sensation: Young British Artists From The Saatchi Collection."

Glenn McNatt's review of the show, "Sick or Art? It's designed to provoke," (Oct. 5) was particularly insightful about the intentions of these artists and museum director Arnold Lehman.

Mr. Lehman left Baltimore for Brooklyn, seeking to jump-start attendance at New York City's second-largest museum, which he has done.

Some art works have always been viewed as distasteful by a portion of the general public.

These include masterpieces such as Hieronymous Bosch's paintings of hell, Salvador Dali's work, Marcel Duchamps' "Urinal" and recent photographs by Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe.

These images may strike a nerve in some people, but they are memorable nonetheless.

The measure of whether something is a great work of art is how it is viewed by posterity.

Jonathan West, Bel Air

To portray as analogous the outrage triggered by Edouard Manet's paintings of nudes in the 1860s and that generated by Arnold Lehman's Brooklyn Museum of Art show is a display of arrogance that takes The Sun's penchant for selective moral outrage to a new low ("Faces in a crowd at the BMA," editorial, Oct. 10).

The Brooklyn Museum's director chooses to use the art world's equivalent to Dennis Rodman's formula for quick fame and fortune -- and The Sun panders to him, while insinuating that those offended by the exhibit are artistically challenged.

Manet's nudes offended society at large. The Brooklyn show ridicules and grievously insults a particular segment of society.

If I burn a cross on my front lawn, I will be convicted of a felony. If I do the same within the context of an art exhibit, will The Sun defend my art and assert that black taxpayers have responsibility to fund it in a democracy?

The venue doesn't transfigure or excuse violence or bigotry -- and taxes should support neither.

Paul H. Belz, Lutherville

Gregory Kane praises rock artists of the Fifties and Sixties for opposing Jim Crow, but he appears unaware of the stark contrast between their views and his with respect to access to art ("Freedom for arts requires freedom from public funds," Oct. 10).

The musicians he cites thought that their art should be available to all, that none should be excluded from their audience.

Yet Mr. Kane would remove art he finds objectionable from the public sphere of the museum, where all can see it, to the upper-class ghetto, the private gallery.

He proposes to do this in the interest of fiscal responsibility.

But readers should not be deceived by conservatives such as Mr. Kane and New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who would have us believe they are the good shepherds of the taxpayer when they limit public access to art.

Mr Kane and his ilk believe that "art can, and should be provocative," so long as it does not provoke them and "may sometimes be offensive," so long as they are not the ones offended.

Alan Waldron, Baltimore

Capturing human spirit

Thank you for The Sun's coverage and editorial celebrating the recent opening of a permanent home for the Contemporary Museum of Baltimore in the Mount Vernon cultural district ("Four walls for museum without a home," Sept. 25 and "Contemporary art's new home," Sept. 30).

However, the review of the opening show in the new space, "Impact: Revealing Sources for Contemporary Art," may mislead some readers into thinking that the art of the past 30 years is primarily about "human absence and alienation," rather than the triumph of the human spirit and artistic innovation ("Isolation Chamber," Sept. 25).

Although the art of our time is fed by several streams, including minimalism, surrealism and pop art, its dominant aesthetic is anything but cold and mechanical.

In contrast to the preceding period, dominated by American abstract expressionism, contemporary art has returned to such subjects as politics, gender and the body. As a consequence, images of human beings or their actions are everywhere in our show.

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