Denmark

Danish artists' exhibition cancelled over royal orgy cartoon

A retrospective of artist duo Surrend has been scrapped because of a poster depicting the Danish royal family having sex

Pictured: The controversial cartoon

COPENHAGEN. A cartoon depicting the Danish royal family taking part in an orgy has led to the cancellation of a retrospective of works by satirical Danish artist duo Surrend (consisting of Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen). “These people just want to attract attention, nothing else,” said Thomas Bloch Ravn, the director of Den Gamle By in Aarhus, Denmark's second city. “It turned out that I cannot trust them and therefore I decided it's better not to collaborate with them.”

The show was due to open in the Danish Poster Museum, part of Den Gamle By, on 13 October. “We agreed on a retrospective exhibition, but when Surrend announced it was including a totally new poster depicting the Danish royals in a pornographic scene, that was against our agreement,” Ravn said. “This is a clear case of censorship”, said Egesborg. “Denmark pretends to encourage freedom of speech and argues for publishing a cartoon hurting millions of Muslims, but when it comes to its own royalty it's a different story.”

Ravn denied censorship and said: “In the same way that the editor-in-chief decides what is published in a newspaper, the head of a museum has the last saying regarding works in an exhibition. They are free to publish their work elsewhere.” Peder Stougaard, the head of the Danish Poster Museum, said he disagreed with the show's cancellation, although he would not have displayed the royal family image.

The Surrend artists are astonished that neither Kurt Westergaard, whose famous cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban that looked like bomb was published in a Danish newspaper in 2005, nor Flemming Rose, the editor who commissioned it, nor the Danish Free Press Society have publicly protested against the exhibition's cancellation.

Lars Hedegaard, the president of the Free Press Society, told The Art Newspaper that he sees the cancellation is an “overreaction, but not censorship”. The Danish Association of Visual Artists is backing Surrend, while the Association of Specialised Museums in Denmark said it supports Den Gamle By's decision.

Surrend is known for its fake posters and advertisements. Under the name of “Danes for World Peace” it booked an advertisement in the Tehran Times that included a portrait of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The first letters of each line of the text spelled the word “swine”. Surrend have also displayed posters in public showing decapitated Danish royalty next to a guillotine.

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Comments

27 Oct 10
19:55 CET

JASONM, NEW YORK

I'm sure the royals will call for beheadings, hostage-takings and violent riots -- after all, we know all governments and religions are equally prone to violence. It's not censorship at all -- they're perfectly free to exhibit and publicize their work wherever they like (the Art Newspaper, for example).

27 Oct 10
19:44 CET

DEFOREST, SYRACUSE

It is a hollow argument in this case that this is an issue about freedom of speech... Let the artists defend the work on it's merits rather than on the basis of their freedom to demonstrate it in someone else's gallery, or not. I suspect if the work had any real traction or significance beyond notoriety and self-aggrandizement, then they would see the groundswell of support they are crying for.

22 Oct 10
22:57 CET

DENIS, SARAJEVO

What a shocker! Who'd have thought that "freedom of speech" was and is used as a convenient excuse and a way to defend and promote the insulting of Muslims, portraying islamophobic vitriol as a righteous, morally upright way of life for an average European. I'm shocked, shocked, shocked. Why, oh why did it have to be Denmark, that bastion of demo(no)cracy? :(

22 Oct 10
21:28 CET

PETER JUSTICE, BATHURST

It's censorship when it's a newspaper, but this is a spat among publcity hounds. The artists want exposure so they create a shock. The minor royalist who wants his gallery better known creates a conflict.

20 Oct 10
20:19 CET

LZG, TORONTO

At least no fatwa by the royals. That's gotta count.

20 Oct 10
18:14 CET

NIGHAT MIR, KARACHI

Denmark speaks from two sides of its mouth. The cartoons offensive to Muslims should have been discouraged, just like the Danish Royals' cartoon has been. A clear case of complete hypocrisy. And religious discrimination.

18 Oct 10
22:38 CET

CALARTS, HEAVEN

Ugh, not this again. This is sooo 1st year art student/ hescher art. I have seen this done so many times over the years - mocking teachers and faculty, U.S. politicians, local goverment, friends and ex-girlfriends, parents. Whats next? Display all the contents of your bedroom in a gallery? (This is usually the 2nd project of your average minded 1st year art student). Dear Dane, Please Stop. The End.

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