In 1999, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences organized a temporary exhibition called “Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection.” The mayor of the city of New York, Rudi Giuliani, called the exhibition “sick” and “disgusting.” The mayor found one particular work, a “painting” titled The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili, particularly offensive to Catholics. In effect, the painting was made of elephant dung and the background was composed of cutouts of vaginas and buttocks from pornographic magazines. The mayor asked the museum to cancel the exhibition or risk losing the millions of dollars that the city of New York paid to support the museum annually. Furthermore, since the building occupied by the museum was leased from the city, the mayor threatened to evict the museum for violating the terms of its lease by mounting an exhibition that was inaccessible to school children. The mayor also made a statement to the effect that public funds should not be used to fund the desecration of important national and religious symbols. The city subsequently informed the museum that all city funding to the museum would be canceled unless the museum agreed to remove The Holy Virgin Mary from the exhibit (Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences v. City of New York, 1999).
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