Victorian Mature

One of the most dangerous closed attitudes of all times (part 2)

It’s not such a mystery, we’re really living a new middle age of thought and action. And what is happening to art is but a thermometer of our mind blurring level. After the facts of Balthus and Egon Schiele‘s artworks, now it’s the turn of John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs. Manchester Art Gallery decided to remove one of the most recognisable of the pre-Raphaelite paintings from its walls — and its postcards from sale in the shop —, replacing it with a notice explaining that a temporary space had been left “to prompt conversations about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection”. Members of the public have stuck Post-it notes around the notice giving their reaction.

Clare Gannaway, the gallery’s curator of contemporary art, said the aim of the removal was to provoke debate, not to censor. The question they’re asking for is whether a painting that shows pubescent, naked nymphs tempting a handsome young man to his doom, but is it an erotic Victorian fantasy too far, and one which, in the current climate, is unsuitable and offensive to modern audiences.

“We think it probably will return, yes, but hopefully contextualised quite differently. It is not just about that one painting, it is the whole context of the gallery,” said Gannaway, while the artist Michael Browne who attended the event where the painting was taken down said he was worried the past was being erased: “I don’t like the replacement and removal of art and being told ‘that’s wrong and this is right’. They are using their power to veto art in a public collection. We don’t know how long the painting will be off the wall – it could be days, weeks, months. Unless there are protests it might never come back.”

In the last few months, Dioniso Punk too is feeling the effects of this new ambiguous closed attitude — Isn’t this encouraging the porn business, someway? — as evidenced by the fact that we will be forced to publish this article with a censored cover just to be able to reach our followers on some social networks. And maybe the day of our burn at the stake is not so far.


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