New law proposed in response to exhibition

It would criminalise those who harm animals when making art

NEW YORK. A committee in San Francisco’s city government has introduced a bill that would allow misdemeanour or felony criminal charges to be brought against any artist or financial backer who causes “the death, abuse or suffering of an animal” when making a work of art.

San Francisco city commissioner Christine Garcia, who wrote the bill, told The Art Newspaper: “If you allow forums that find this type of work acceptable, more people will produce it and can gain fame from the suffering of animals.” The bill, which is still in the process of being drafted, must go before the city legislature before it can become law.

The proposal comes in response to a recent video installation by Algerian-French artist Adel Abdessemed at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) showing the killing of six farm animals. The Art Institute was forced to close the show in

late March after only one week when Abdessemed, curator Hou Hanru and staff members received a series of death threats from animal rights extremists (The Art Newspaper, May 2008, p3). The SFAI says that Abdessemed was documenting traditional methods of food production in Mexico and that no gratuitous violence took place to make the videos.

In mid-March, the California-based animal rights group In Defense of Animals, which has testified before the city commission, sent an “action alert” email to 30,000 of its subscribers

asking that members demand the immediate closure of Abdessemed’s exhibition.

At the time Okwui Enwezor, dean of academic affairs at SFAI, told us that the exhibition’s sponsors, including the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Peter Norton Family Foundation, had sent letters in support of the show. The same exhibition attracted no protests when it was seen in Grenoble, France, earlier this year but

was cancelled by curators in Glasgow in April.

Charmaine Picard

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