Vandalism in Museums-Cancel Culture gone Haywire

When activists attack art, be it for the climate, peace or other worthy causes it resonates to me as a poor attempt of preserving one value while destroying another.

Art is a human right, to attack one human right in order to fight for another is like throwing out the baby with the bath water.

The recent food fight attacking Mona Lisa in the Louvre reminded me of the scene of the Batman movie in 1989 in which the Joker and his friends vandalize a museum.

Batman, Tim Burton, 1989 , museum scene

Being of German descent I can’t help myself when these events occur outside of a fictitious narrative but to view the correlation to the 1937 “Entartetet Kunst” Exhibition in the Haus der Kunst in Munich, a propaganda exhibit organized by the nazis in order to defame art. It assembled most of the greatest modernist art pieces at the time, ironically. Obliviousness is damaging. Throwing a cake at the Mona Lisa will not permanently destroy it, if the original even was on display. But the act shows such a lack of understanding about cultural preservation, the role of a museum in society and the intellectual sustainability and safe space it provides.

A few days ago a young man smashed a Greek drinking vessel from the sixth century BCE, a fifth-century BCE Greek amphora vase and a ceramic bottle by a living native American artist inside the Dallas Museum. This man seems to have been running amok, but what struck me was the repeated attack against artwork globally.

I’d like to quote Markus Gabriel from his essay : The Power of Art: “Works of art can be absolute in the measure as they exist in radical autonomy. Works of art are isolated from everything else. They suck us humans into them. And just as they take possession of us, they release us. Works of art act like ontological black holes: They are massively autonomous in the sense that the closer you get to them the more you get lost in them. Without external reason one is expulsed and transformed. This transformation through aesthetic experience does not happen on purpose.No artist can predict what will happen after a work has been interpreted.This is why so many representatives of non-artistic fields of meaning fear art: religion, philosophy, science and politics. Often they try to fight it. But the possibility to reach art is not at their disposal. Because art in itself lies out of reach of other fields of meaning. Since it is precisely an absolute.” Markus Gabriel, Le pouvoir de l’art, Éditions Saint-Simon, Paris, 2018

Art Matters


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