An exhibition showing an image of a painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch with a penis cut and pasted onto it has been condemned by one of the artist's descendants as “unworthy” and “undignified”.
The exhibition, ‘Melgaard + Munch: The end of it all has already happened’, at Olso’s Munch Museum, pairs the Scream painter with New York-based bad-boy artist Bjarne Melgaard.
Many of the Melgaard works displayed reference pornography and paedophilia, while a replication of Munch’s painting ‘Puberty’, which depicts a young girl sitting naked on a bed, is shown with a penis stuck onto it.
“I think what they have done with 'Puberty' is unworthy. It is not a pleasant picture,” Elisabeth Munch Ellingsen complained to Aftenposten, saying she had met the museum to complain. “I like art to be provocative and believe we must tolerate different perspectives and interpretations. In this case, I am concerned that we as heirs, along with Oslo Municipality, must preserve the dignity of Munch and his works.”
The exhibition’s creator Lars Toft-Eriksen said Munch Ellingsen risks “stifling artistic expression”.
“I think the term ‘dignity’ is very problematic when it comes to artistic expression,” he said. “If we begin using such concepts we will begin to accept ethical limitations to artistic expression.”
On February 15, the art historian Hilde MJ Liljebrunn wrote in a letter to Aftenposten that the exhibit was “violent towards the audience and Munch's art” and should be closed.
The art historian Tommy Sørbø told Afternposten that the exhibition was clearly designed to provoke.
“It serves as a provocation but provocation is not synonymous with artistic quality,” Sørbø said. “It does take away a little of the ceremony and aura around Munch and to that extent, I think it works.”