NEW YORK - A portrait of President Bush using
monkeys to form his image led to the closure of a New York art
exhibition over the weekend and anguished protests on Monday
over freedom of expression.
"Bush Monkeys," a small acrylic on canvas by Chris Savido,
created the stir at the Chelsea Market public space, leading
the market's managers to close down the 60-piece show that was
scheduled to stay up for the next month.
Twenty-three-year-old painter Christopher Savido poses with his painting 'Bush Monkeys,' a portrait of President Bush, at the Animal gallery on New York City's Lower East Side, December 13, 2004. The portrait of Bush using monkeys to form his image led to the closure of a New York art exhibition over the weekend and anguished protests on Monday over freedom of expression. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
The show featured art from the upcoming issue of Animal
Magazine, a quarterly publication featuring emerging artists.
"We had tons of people, like more than 2,000 people show up
for the opening on Thursday night," said show organizer Bucky
Turco. "Then this manager saw the piece and the guy just kind
of flipped out. 'The show is over. Get this work down or I'm
gonna arrest you,' he said. It's been kind of wild."
Turco took the show down on Saturday and moved the art work
to his small downtown Animal Gallery. Calls to the management
of Chelsea Market for comment were not returned.
From afar, the painting offers a likeness of Bush, but when
you get closer you see the image is made up of chimpanzees or
monkeys swimming in a marsh.
Savido, 23, said he was surprised by the strong reaction to
his painting, listed in the catalog at $3,500.
"It seems like people got a kick out of it," Savido said.
"When they really see it, they almost do a double-take. I like
to get a reaction from people."
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-bred artist said he was happy
for all the attention paid to his work but said the decision to
shutter the exhibit was "a blatant act of censorship."
Savido plans to auction the painting and donate proceeds to
an organization dedicated to freedom of expression.
"This is much deeper than art. This is fundamental American
rights, freedom of speech," Savido said. "To see that something
like this can happen, especially in a place like New York City
is mind boggling and scary."
© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd