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Label: cosby

Friday 17th July 2015Smithsonian / Cosby Controversy Deepens

Perhaps the most curiously controversial art exhibit in the United States right now is taking place at an unlikely source: that venerable bastion of American culture and heritage, the Smithsonian Museum. The curious aspect is that the pieces themselves have not caused the controversy, but rather the collector who loaned the majority of the pieces in the exhibition, Bill Cosby. Formerly a beloved television father and comedian, Cosby has since been accused of a number of sexual assaults, and even more recently, an unsealed 2005 deposition documents him admitting to at least some aspects of the allegations. While he hasn't been formally charged, he has naturally been the target of much anger and controversy.

The exhibit, entitled 'Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue,' features an impressive collection of African and African American artists, largely from Cosby's personal collection. The Smithsonian has attracted its own fair share of anger, and recently made a public statement about the decision to keep the show open despite the incredible volume of complaints it has received about the exhibit.

A statement from the head of media relations at the Smithsonian last week explained their position: "The museum in no way condones this behavior. Our current ‘Conversations’ exhibition, which includes works of African art from our permanent collection and African American art from the collection of Camille and Bill Cosby, is fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not the owners of the collection." That seems reasonable enough, in theory.

It's quite a shame: the Smithsonian is correct, naturally, that the works and the artists should not be thought of in the context of Cosby's actions, but further developments have recently come to light. It's the standard practice of major museums and galleries to disclose donations made, and to make public a list of the names of all major donors. A report by the Associated Press has disclosed that Cosby actually made an extremely significant donation to the Smithsonian - to the tune of $716,000 USD, apparently equivalent to the cost of maintaining the entire show, which runs until April 2016.

Suddenly, the Smithsonian decision begins to seem a little more suspect. Naturally, the artworks themselves should be seen and viewed, but their decision to keep the exhibit open and to accept Cosby's money at the same time begins to suggest that this is really more of a publicity campaign for Cosby during a difficult time for his public image - and that's not really what museums and galleries are about, is it?
 

Posted on July 17th 2015 on 03:56pm
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