Censored Artist Beams Bush Portrait on Jumbotron, Auctions Work
December 27, 2004
Christopher Savido made a portrait of President Bush out of tiny images of chimpanzees. The piece, entitled “Bush Monkeys,” was to be part of an exhibition called “Animal’s Paradise” at the Chelsea Market in Manhattan.
The exhibition, slated to last a month, opened on December 9. But it didn’t last the weekend.
“This manager saw the piece, and the guy just kind of flipped out,” Bucky Turco, organizer of the exhibit, told Reuters. According to Turco, the manager said, “The show is over. Get this work down, or I’m going to arrest you.”
Savido told AP that this was “a blatant act of censorship.”
(Chelsea Market did not give a comment to Reuters and did not return an e-mail request from The Progressive.)
Animal Magazine, which had organized the show, wanted people to see Savido’s work. So it raised money from anonymous donors, and on December 21, it began posting the image on the Jumbotron on the Manhattan side entrance of the Holland Tunnel.
According to the magazine’s website (animalnewyork.com), that image and promotions relating to other artists “will be broadcast approximately ten times an hour for a month. It is estimated that over 400,000 drivers will pass by the sign each day.”
On top of that, Savido auctioned his work on EBay. “After the first morning of bidding, the controversial ‘Bush Monkeys’ painting secured a high bid of $13,000, almost four times the list price that was put on the painting in the Animal Magazine art show from which it was banned,” the website says.
Animal Magazine and Savido will be donating the proceeds of the auction to two efforts. The first is called “Art for Armor,” which “helps soldiers’ parents to supply their children with effective body armor,” says the website. The second is “Art for Education,” which “provides scholarships for disadvantaged urban youth who wish to pursue a career in the arts.”
“Bush Monkeys” has occasioned a heated debate on the Internet. “I’m amazed by the intensity of the dialogue, and especially the violence of the far right,” says Turco, in a statement on the website. “The message boards contain more than a few threats against Chris and his family. I suppose I should not be surprised. It was this kind of conservative extremism that triggered the censorship of ‘Bush Monkeys’ in the first place.”