Tate Britain Museum Pulls Artwork to Avoid Offending Religious Sensibilities After Bombings
LONDON Sep 25, 2005 — The Tate Britain museum has removed a work made up of sacred texts from Christianity, Judaism and Islam torn and mounted on glass to avoid offending religious sensibilities following the July transit bombings in London, the museum said Sunday.
The museum said it was particularly concerned that John Latham’s piece “God Is Great” could upset Muslims. It pulled the work from an exhibition of Latham’s art despite his objection.
“Having sought wide-ranging advice, Tate feels that to exhibit the work in London in the current sensitive climate, post July 7, would not be appropriate,” the museum said in a statement.
Three of the four men suspected of carrying out the July 7 attacks, which killed 52 victims and the bombers, were young Pakistani Britons. All were Muslim, and much political debate in Britain has since focused on homegrown Islamic extremism.
“God Is Great” consists of a large sheet of glass and copies of the Quran, the Bible and Judaism’s Talmud that have been cut apart, with the pieces mounted on either side of the glass to make it appear that they are embedded in it.
The museum put up a notice in the exhibition explaining the decision, including Latham’s objection to it.
Latham, 84, who made his name as a member of London’s 1960s artistic avant garde, said the piece, which he made 10 years ago, was not anti-Muslim.
“Tate Britain have shown cowardice over this,” he told The Observer newspaper. “I think it’s a daft thing to do because, if they want to help the militants, this is the way to do it.”
He said he had asked the museum to return the work, which is part of its permanent collection.
He has made waves before with his art. One work involved burning copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and another featured Latham chewing up a volume of art criticism.
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