Oslo gallery bans Muhammad caricatures by Swedish artist

An Oslo gallery has banned Swedish artist Lars Vilks from exhibiting water-colour caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

The owner of the gallery, Randi Thommessen, explained that she did not want to risk the exhibition stirring up a fuss in the mass media. The private Lautom Contemporary gallery in Oslo offered the artist the chance to exhibit work on another theme but Vilks refused, reports the Swedish newspaper Helsinborgs Dagblad.

In a letter to Vilks, Thommessen is reported to express her admiration for the Skåne-based artist but felt that the ‘exaggerated debate with regard to the Muhammad caricatures was over and done with on her part.’

Vilks explained that the gallery’s decision fits perfectly into his own current project regarding artistic freedom.

“The main purpose has been to illustrate how the art market conducts itself. Artists can do what they like, but certain subjects became incredibly sensitive,” Vilks told Helisngborgs Dagblad.

Vilks explains that the decision itself is that which interests him the most.

“As long as there is a ban I think it is interesting,” he said.

Vilks became widely famous outside of Sweden when a local newspaper, Nerikes Allehanda published his caricatures depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog. A price was placed on his head, he was forced to live under police protection and Swedish companies operating across the world were threatened with a boycott of their goods by Muslim groups.

Vilks explains that he has no regrets and that all debate is healthy.

“It shows that there is a great need to discuss these issues,” Vilks told the newspaper.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday February 11, 2008.
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