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Natalia LL, Sztuka konsumpcyjna (Consumer Art), 1973.
Natalia LL, Sztuka konsumpcyjna (Consumer Art), 1973.

Warsaw’s National Museum Accused of Censorship

On Monday evening, hundreds of people gathered outside the National Museum in Warsaw to stage a protest against the institution’s decision to remove an artwork by artist Natalia LL, who is also known as Natalia Lach-Lachowicz, reports the Associated Press. Rather than unfurl banners and hold up signs to denounce the alleged censorship, demonstrators chose to eat bananas, which is what the artist is doing—suggestively, while naked—in her video Sztuka konsumpcyjna (Consumer Art), 1973.

Museum director Jerzy Miziolek told the Polish news outlet last week that he took the piece down because he is “opposed to showing works that could irritate sensitive young people” and suggested that visitors have complained about the provocative piece despite its presence in the institution for many years. A 2005 video by Katarzyna Kozyra, which depicts a woman walking two men who are dressed as dogs and are on all fours, was also taken down.

Following a public outcry on social media that involved dozens of people posting photos of themselves eating or holding bananas, the director reinstated the works but said they would only be on view until May 6, when the museum begins a major rehang of its gallery of art from the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries. While there have been reports of Poland’s ministry of culture pressuring the state-run institution to remove the works, Miziolek dismissed them.

Since his appointment in 2015, culture minister Piotr Glinski has come under fire for cutting funding to arts festivals that planned on showing controversial works addressing Catholic themes and exhibitions that were critical of the government. He also attempted to gain control of Poland’s European Solidarity Center in Gdansk, which is known for commemorating the establishment of Solidarity, the country’s first labor union independent of communist rule.