Regular readers will remember Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist who offended the sensibilities of Muslims and the dhimmi Left with his various depictions of “the Prophet as a Rondellhund”.
Mr. Vilks’ latest installment of the Art Project is a series of watercolors represented as stamps. These new Modoggies have met the same fate as his earlier ones: censorship, in anticipation of a wrathful reaction by the dreaded “Muslim street”.
The Danish online magazine Sappho has the story, and our Danish correspondent Kepiblanc has kindly translated it for Gates of Vienna.
Norway Says No to Mohammed Watercolor
It is extremely unusual for an art gallery to reject an artist due to fear of media exposure. Such, however, is the situation in Norway, where the gallery “Lautom Contemporary” in Oslo has chosen to censor artist Lars Vilks out of the upcoming exhibition.
By Uwe Max Jensen
The Swedish artist Lars Vilks achieved notoriety last summer when he depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a so-called “rondellhund” [a ‘roundabout-dog’ — see the Modoggie Archives]. However, in spite of the then huge exposure in the media, not a single art gallery dared to exhibit Lars Vilks’ drawings.
It started with an arts club in Wärmland, Sweden, claiming “self-censorship” and fearing to offend religious feelings. Later, the Swedish school of arts “Gerlesborg”, Bohus County, removed Lars Vilks’ drawings, while pointing to the safety of its students, and lastly the “Moderna Museet” in Stockholm refused to show the drawings.
And now the same fate will meet Lars Vilks in Norway.
No to Mohammed
Originally Lars Vilks was invited to the exhibit at the one year old Lautom Contemporary gallery in connection with the exhibition “Where a river runs north underground”. But when gallery manager Randi Thommesen realized that Lars Vilks wanted to show three stamp-sized watercolors depicting Mohammed as a ‘rondellhund’ she backed out.
Too dangerous for Norway
Randi Thommesen doesn’t want to exhibit the Lars Vilks watercolors, and in a letter she asked him to provide something else to the scheduled event. In this letter (quoted in its entirety in Sappho because of its relevance in the ongoing discussion on freedom of expression) Randi Thommesen writes that she admires Lars Vilks because he did so well in the media hullabaloo in the wake of his drawings.
The debate is over
Nevertheless Randi Thommesen does not want to exhibit Lars Vilks’ drawings fearing that the new watercolors might stir up yet another violent discussion about freedom of speech like the one in Norway when the Norwegian daily Magazinet published the Mohammed drawings from Jyllands-Posten. According to the letter, Randi Thommesen sees no reason to repeat that debate, feeling the subject is history and she wonders what might be the intentions of showing new Mohammed drawings in Norway.
Furthermore Randi Thommesen fears that Lautom Contemporary might encounter a media tornado she can’t handle and she doesn’t want the gallery to be widely known in association with Vilks’ Mohammed watercolors.
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Her letter concludes: “You (Lars Vilks, ed.) are an interesting artist who worked with groundbreaking objects. That’s the side of you I want to exhibit”.
Following Lautom Contemporary’s rejection of his three Mohammed watercolors Lars Vilks chose to say ‘no, thanks’ to exhibit other oeuvres in Oslo.
I’m happy that you would like to exhibit in my gallery and I’m exited to see how Tommy’s exhibition might turn out. Last night I was informed that you want to show little watercolors of Mohammed. That worries me.
In my opinion you have focused the spotlight precisely on freedom of expression and art, and we need such existential debates. You stood upright against a severe media storm, threats, and unpleasantness. I admire you for doing so.
Nevertheless I have some objections.
As I’m sure you know we had quite a turbulent time here in Norway when the Christian Magazinet reprinted the Danish cartoons. We had some nasty reactions from radical Muslim circles abroad and quite an upbeat and one-sided debate here at home. Unfortunately, the debate was dominated by extremists and the finer nuances thereby disappeared. Later on we had a more fruitful discussion in Norway and by and by a more inclusive climate with more nuances. But I consider that debate and its principles history, and ask myself what purpose is served by showing new Mohammed drawings in Norway. And that’s why I ask you to bring other items.
Lautom is a young gallery, not even one year old, and we don’t get much press attention, which actually suits me fine. I want reviews, not scandals. And risking the our greatest press exposure in a process I can’t defend is not something I want for Lautom.
You are an interesting artist who worked with groundbreaking objects. That’s the side of you I want to exhibit. That’s the side I want to see. Tommy should have sent me your drawings, but hasn’t done so, probably due to stress with his own exhibit, and I don’t want to push him any further. I’m sorry for the somewhat ambivalent response from our side.
For previous posts on Lars Vilks and the Roundabout Dogs, see the Modoggie Archives.
Hat tip: Jens.