To censor is to examine, review, critique, find fault, delete, cut, edit or silence and remove an object found to be objectionable. If we are to censor works of art, then 1st amendment rights enter the picture, the landscape of private entities receiving government support brings control or oversight.
Art is usually defined as something beautiful and inspiring to the public, where as fine art has personal artistic touches, which could be taboo by some in society. Supreme court justice John Marshall Harlan II stated the subjectivity involved in art with this statement “one mans vulgarity is an others lyric.”
Historically, Pablo Picasso 1881-1973 painted and presented Les Demoiselles d ‘Avignon to a shocked public and then continued his ‘primitivism’ during his long life. This painting appears to be a group portrait of prostitutes, his Cubism. Salvador Dali 1904-89, left his legacy in Surrealism, detailed in the painting Hallucination Partielle: six Imagende Lenine ser un Piano, which challenges and disturbs the viewer, emitting fantasies. Forward to the 1960′s, Andy Warhol, a pop art icon, produced popular culture paintings of music and cinema icons along with food packaging(consumerism) prints.
The appeal of art and it’s ability to evoke liberal freedoms of expression, can also swim in a sea of controversy, bringing waves of censorship from politicians, governments and lawyers when matters of funding, primarily public funding are involved.
Artists mix the civil and religious palettes by painting a sculpted image of a childs hand depicting a child murderer in prison, or by the inclusion of elephant dung amidst a black Madonnas face surrounded with buttocks. The question is should it be funded by tax payers and what about the constitution? The fore mentioned were in a Sensation exhibition in NY, where Mayor Giuliani cited this as “sick stuff” before seeing it. The Mayor and Catholic league president sought desperately to stop the show. This action increased publicity and a 1st amendment lawyer successfully upheld the museums right to freedom of expression, funding continued. A person does have the right to view it or not.
After all a thriving art scene can represent social and economic regeneration. Something to ponder, the book SEX, a coffee table book by Madonna, very controversial in 1992, now 20 years later sells for $350 new on Amazon compared to $49 back then.