The Guggenheim Museum announced on Monday night that it would be pulling three works from the upcoming exhibition “Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World”, after receiving “explicit and repeated threats of violence.”
The exhibit had come under intense criticism from animal-rights groups due largely to its inclusion of a seven-minute video called “Dogs Cannot Touch Each Other” in which three pairs of Pitbull-type dogs are chained to treadmills and try to fight each other. In another piece called “Theater of the World,” insects and reptiles are placed in a “caged arena shaped like a mythological tortoise” where they “devour each other.”
“People who find entertainment in watching animals try to fight each other are sick individuals whose twisted whims the Guggenheim should refuse to cater to,” PETA’s president Ingrid Newkirk wrote in a letter to the museum. “PETA has seen dogs after they have been forced to fight — mangled, bloody, soaked with urine and saliva, unable to walk and barely able to stand … Dogfighting is reprehensible, and it’s up to each of us to do what we can to stop it. The Guggenheim can do its part by simply refusing to display exhibitions that encourage such abuse to animals.”
On Thursday, the museum appeared to stand behind its decision to exhibit the work, writing: “‘Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other’ is an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control.”
By Monday night, however, the Guggenheim changed its mind, and stated, “Out of concern for the safety of its staff, visitors, and participating artists,” it would be pulling “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other,” “Theater of the World,” and “A Case of Transference,” a video in which two pigs covered in ink mate in front of an audience.
“As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art,” their statement read. “Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.”