The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is removing three art pieces from its forthcoming exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, following accusations of supporting animal cruelty.
The experimental works at the center of the controversy include Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other, a recording of Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s live performance piece featuring eight pit bulls harnessed to treadmills, forced to face each other, but held back from contact, as well as Theater of World, by Huang Yong Ping, an enclosure populated by reptiles and insects, eating each other throughout the course of the show in a live display of life and death. Theater of the World, the headlining piece, was shut down by the Vancouver Art Gallery 10 days into a 2007 exhibtion.
Also removed was Xu Bing’s A Case Study of Transference, a video of the original 1994-1995 installation involving temporary tattooed pigs.
These artworks first inspired a Change.org petition, which garnered more than 650,000 signatures in favor of removal, then attracted the attention of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who sent a letter calling for the same. The American Kennel Club and the ASPCA also expressed their concerns about “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other.”
In a statement released last night, the museum pointed to “explicit and repeated threats of violence” and a “concern for the safety” of staff, visitors and participating artists as the primary reasons for their decision to remove these pieces.
The Art and China after 1989 exhibition opens on October 6, and showcases more than 100 pieces of conceptual work by Chinese artists.