Censorship – the suppression of speech, public communication or other information which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions.

Censoship Presentation from Helen Jones

Articles on Censorship

Merriam-Webster defines censorship as “the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and removing things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, harmful to society, etc.”


Many acknowledge that fear of causing offence feeds self-censorship; others stress that over-protectiveness denies the audience the opportunity to decide for itself


Censorship can come in many forms — the art world is no stranger to it. With that in mind, there has always been this image of the art community, overall, being against censorship. In fact, the fight against censorship, as any spirited art student can tell you, is supposed to be one of the issues that binds the art community together. Artists are not supposed to stand for it. Sadly, it often appears that this image is little more than a façade. It has been reduced to a symbolic ‘beating of the chest’ rather than a true call for artistic freedom. Perhaps it has always been that way. 


Grayson Perry

Marcus Harvey

Marcus Harvey –Myra: Mamyrarcus Harvey’s Sensation portrait of Moors murderer Myra Hindley touched a raw nerve in the British psyche,

The painting Myra was first exhibited at the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in September 1997. it depicted a duplication of a photographic portrait repeatedly used in the media of Myra Hindley, a woman recently convicted of being a child murderer, killing 5 children within London. Painted in monochrome so as to resemble the BW image it represented, the portrait is a composed entirely of  duplicated hand prints from a child. These hand prints were made by taking the cast of a hand from a four year old girl, the daughter of a friend.


Chris Ofili

More than 15 years after it raised a ruckus in New York, Chris Ofili’s mixed-media painting depicting a black Madonna decorated with elephant manure sold at auction at Christie’s in London today (June 30) for 2.9 million pounds ($4.6 million). This is a record for its artist, who surpassed his previous auction record of 1.9 million pounds.chris

In 1999, the Turner Prize-winning British artist made the headlines when his painting The Holy Virgin of Mary reached the Brooklyn Museum in New York as part of a group exhibition of young British artists. Ofili’s oeuvre portrays Mary wearing a blue cape parted to reveal a breast made of dried and varnished elephant dung. Similar to Old Master paintings, Mary is surrounded by angels—only here they are drawn in the shape of genitalia. And the 8-foot-high canvas is propped on two lumps of dried dung.


Andres Serrano

The notorious “Piss Christ” by Andres Serrano (b. 1950), Lot 51, is a beautiful image of the crucifixion that seems to float in blood, which caused a great deal of controversy because the liquid is urine and many people felt the image and concept was therefore sacrilegious. While the use of urine was provocative, the resulting image is very powerful and memorable.

From Helen’s Presentation

Piss Christ – a photograph that has attracted controversy for more than two decades – has gone on display in New York, at an exhibition which surveys 25 years of the artist Andres Serrano’s work.p

In 1989, the 60x40in red and yellow photograph of a crucifix plunged into a vat of Serrano’s urine ignited a congressional debate on US public arts funding; in France last year, it was physically attacked. In midtown Manhattan on Thursday night, a small group of Catholics opposed to the work gathered outside the Edward Tyler Nahem gallery, where the exhibition opened.

“At the time I made Piss Christ, I wasn’t trying to get anything across,” Serrano told the Guardian. “In hindsight, I’d say Piss Christ is a reflection of my work, not only as an artist, but as a Christian.”


Chapman Brothers

Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Piggyback (1997) was recently removed from display at Rome’s contemporary art museum MAXXI, de-installed before the September closing of the permanent collection exhibit “Remembering is Not Enough.”  Observatory on the Rights of the Child group complained to the government.ch

Its president Antonio Marziale demanded that the work would never be shown again.


Tierney Gearon

Police have warned that two photographs of naked children displayed at the Saatchi gallery could be seized under indecency laws. Tierney Gearon , who took the pictures, insists they are innocent images of her children doing ‘everyday things in a beautiful way’.


I looked at my pictures today and tried to see the bad things in them that other people have seen. But I can’t. Some are describing them as pornographic, others are accusing me of exploiting my children’s innocence. I don’t understand how you can see anything but the purity of childhood. When the exhibition opened eight weeks ago, the Observer’s art critic, Laura Cumming, wrote that I had succeeded in capturing the way that a child would look at the world, almost as though I was a child myself. The exhibition got great press, and the whole experience has been positive – until last Thursday, when I went to the gallery to do an interview and found the police waiting for me. I was completely blown away. I even started joking around with the officers because I simply couldn’t believe it was happening. I don’t see sex in any of those prints, and if someone else reads that into them, then surely that is their issue, not mine.


Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe remains one of the most famous photographers of the 80’s who stood out because of the way he rendered his predominantly black and white photography, and even more so, for his provocative thematics, frequently involving overt nudity, sexually explicit moments, homoeroticism and the aesthetics of sado masochism.rob

Some see him as famous, some as notorious because of what can be perceived as obscene imagery, but the truth is, Mapplethrope was the conceiver of unique poetics, making the hidden and the tabooed accessible to the masses.  At the peak of his career, he was beaten by AIDS, while his life evolution can be tracked through subtle hints of his self portrait photography. The one above was made in 1975.

“I wanted people to see that even those extremes could be made into art. Take those pornographic images and make them somehow transcend the image.”


The national print campaign, created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, bore the tagline “there are no silver spoons for children born into poverty”. It featured harsh images of newborn babies with a cockroach, syringe or bottle of methylated spirits protruding from their mouths.barn

The campaign attracted 466 complaints in all and prompted Barnado’s to run further print ads apologising for any offence caused, but also defending the creative work.

Upholding a complaint that the ads were offensive, shocking and unduly distressing, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the ads were “likely to cause serious or widespread offence”. It ordered Barnardo’s not to repeat the campaign.

A second complaint that the ads were irresponsible and could be copied by children was not upheld.



“We did not create our advertisements in order to provoke, but to make people talk, to develop citizen consciousness,” Luciano Benetton assures us. Whether or not they began in this way, many Benetton advertisement campaigns have ended with controversy.benne

Most recently, in the Autumn of 2011, with the launch of the unHate campaign, some of the photographs in the series wouldn’t see a full day on the billboards. It is by this light — the light of controversy — that I consider each advert. It must be acknowledged that such campaigns do wonders for the company: a political alignment with consumers is much stronger than a strictly aesthetic one, after all. Nevertheless, given that such projects have enormous visibility, there is a logic in the highly politicised propaganda. I believe this is the classic win-win situation. We shouldn’t whine about that.




A controversial billboard advert showing a naked female model in a suggestive pose has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority ruling.
The Yves Saint Laurent Opium perfume advert featuring Sophie Dahl attracted 730 complaints, making it one of the most complained about in the ASA’s history.

It clearly caused serious and widespread offence. Christopher Graham, Advertising Standards Authority.op.jpg

On Monday evening the watchdog ordered all the posters to be withdrawn because they are “degrading” to women and offensive.

Christopher Graham, ASA director general, said the poster was sexually suggestive and likely to cause “serious or widespread offence” thereby breaking the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion.


Karen Finley

Artist Karen Finley has provoked controversy wherever she has gone. Her works and performances have stirred artistic and social communities, mainly throughout North America, enough to raise their consciousness beyond the art, to issues such as social activism, consumption, distribution and censorship.

o-chocolate-smear-570Finley’s work in the art world system has both influenced and altered societal perspectives. Through a close analysis of Karen Finley’s stage performances, this paper will discuss how Finley’s use of food in her performance reveals the female body as a consumable product in society, the many forms of distribution that have effected her work, and the role that censorship has played in her work. These areas of focus will be analyzed in specific reference to the following performances: Momento Mori,Yams Up My Granny’s Ass, We Keep Our Victims Ready, and American Chestnut.


Things did and didn’t happen at Saturday’s performance of Karen Finley’s “We Keep Our Victims Ready” at UCLA’s Wadsworth Theater.

A group calling itself the Traditional Values Coalition, which had threatened to protest the show, did notshow up for the 8 p.m. opening (though they had earlier reserved the right to show up for Sunday’s closing performance.)

Director Peter Sellars did show up at 7, to give an informal, loosely structured introduction to Finley’s work and what makes it tick.

Like a time-bomb.

Sellars was hoping the protesters would be there, he said, because “that’s Amurka,” where Finley can do her thing and they can do theirs. But only a lone representative from the Revolutionary Communist Party stood outside, interested only, it turned out, in hawking the group’s newspaper. And, of course, Finley showed up. As did an enthusiastic audience that packed the theater.


Ai WeiWei


Chinese artist and activist Ai was supposed to exhibit his porcelain sunflower seeds at an exhibition honoring the 15th anniversary of the Chinese Contemporary Art Award in 2014 — he was, after all, a founding, three-time jurist. Yet due to pressure from the Chinese government, which Ai has never been shy about criticizing, his work was cut from the “15 Years Chinese Contemporary Art Award“ show. Furthermore, museum workers erased Ai’s name from the list of the award’s past winners and jury members.

Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain.

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.

Sotheby'S Impressionist And Modern Art Sale
Sunflower Seeds (2012)

Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.


Brett Bailey

This controversial performance replicated the “human zoos” that existed in the 19th and 20th centuries, forcing viewers to confront a heinously racist moment in history head on. However, many accused the exhibition, which featured black actors in cages and chains, of being racist itself.

Human Zoos (2014)

The piece was slated to run at London’s Barbican Centre, but was cancelled due to the “extreme” nature of the protests and threats made against the performers and staff. “We find it profoundly troubling that such methods have been used to silence artists and performers and that audiences have been denied the opportunity to see this important work,” a statement from the Barbican read.

“It has not been my intention to alienate people with this work,” Bailey wrote for The Guardiansoon after. “To challenge perceptions and histories, yes. Explicitly to offend, no.”


Other Censored Artists:


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