Guggenheim submits to pressure from animal rights activists over graphic animal art

The Guggenheim Museum in New York City decided to remove three pieces of art from a future exhibit heavily protested by animal rights groups and people who say the works show graphic and cruel depictions of animals.

Museum officials say recent threats of violence and fear for their visitors and staff forced them to reach the decision, according to NPR.

The three pieces removed from the exhibition "Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World" include: video footage of Sun Yuan and Peng Yu's 2003 Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other, which shows pit bulls running toward each other face to face while strapped onto non-motorized treadmills;  Huang Yong Ping's 1993 Theater of the World — a large wooden and steel dome housing living insects and lizards that sometimes feed on one another; and a video of two pigs covered in Roman and Chinese characters porking each other in front of a human audience from Xu Bing's 1994 A Case Study of Transference.

The museum originally defended the works against online petitions demanding their removal, protests outside the museum, and pressure from PETA.

Via NPR:

"These animals experience every emotion that you, I, and our beloved dogs and cats do," wrote PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. "They're emotionally complex and highly intelligent living beings, not props. The animals in these exhibits are not willing participants, and no one should force sentient beings into stressful situations for 'art' or 'sport.' "

The museum did not respond to NPR's request for detail on the nature of the threats it received. But its statement conveys a palpable sense of frustration.

"Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Guggenheim regrets that explicit and repeated threats of violence have made our decision necessary," it said. "As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art. Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim."