Taipei City Councilwoman Lee Wen-ying (
When reporters later confronted Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
The sketch in question was one in the series Duel in the Sun by the German artist Johannes Kahrs. It is a very rough and expressionistic sketch of a woman lying on her back with her vagina exposed.
But rather than trying to defend the drawing for artistic value or pedigree -- as TFAM did in saying it was a study of a painting by the French realist Goustav Courbet -- let's talk for a moment about penises and vaginas at TFAM, because they've been there for a long time.
Two years ago, in fact, people were buck naked and having sex in the museum while auditioning for a porno film as part of ShuLea Cheang's (
Then during April and May of last year, a male performance artist spent 17 full days in the museum wearing only a leather bag pulled down over his head and a gourd tied over his privates. The piece was by a local group called the House of Wuchi (無忌宮) and was titled Image of Carnal Sacrifice.
In the 1998 Biennial, the paper block prints of Hou Jun-ming (
Hou, Cheang and the House of Wuchi are all Taiwanese -- and here let me mention that TFAM's fundamental mission is to promote Taiwanese art and artists. I mention this because in 20 or so minutes of perusing catalogues of TFAM's permanent collection, which consists nearly exclusively of Taiwanese artists, I found about a dozen nudes, some showing penises or vaginas, that the museum bought with its Taipei City Council-provided budget. Taiwanese master Hsi Teh-chin's (
So nudity is nothing new at TFAM. But in this context it's very strange that Lee picked a foreigner's work to attack -- that's why I called her ignorant.
But where she may have a point is that the work may not be suitable for unsupervised children, and here blame should be directed at TFAM, whose program of youth education has opened up shows with mature content to kids, like the 2002 Biennial. For the current Biennial, the museum has produced a brochure-sized guide for kids that's free in the galleries. I recently mused on the pamphlet's irony while watching an 8-year-old spinning pleasantly on the circular, rotating bed of another Biennial installation, Kyoichi Tsuzuki's love hotel. It was, of course, omitted from the kids' guide, as was Kahrs' work. Now, as an awkward stopgap, the museum has placed barriers around these sections warding off underage viewers.