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Thursday, 23 September, 1999, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Sensation sparks New York storm
Chris Ofili
Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili upsets City Hall
A New York exhibition of young British artists, including Chris Ofili and Damien Hirst, faces closure after the city's mayor dubbed the work "sick stuff".

Republican mayor Rudolph Guiliani has told the Brooklyn Museum of Art - which would host the Sensation show - to cancel next week's opening or lose its annual $7m City Hall grant.

Guiliani is particularly offended by Chris Ofili's painting The Holy Virgin Mary, which incorporates his trademark elephant dung.

Mayor Giuliani
Mayor Giuliani: "I'm offended"
But Mr Guiliani, who is preparing to defend his office in the polls against first lady Hillary Clinton, argued that his ultimatum to the Brooklyn Museum was not censorship, just correct use of public funds.

"You don't have a right to government subsidy for desecrating somebody else's religion," he said.

"The idea of having so-called works of art in which people are throwing elephant dung at a picture of the Virgin Mary is sick."

The mayor has not seen the exhibition himself, but has examined a copy of the show's catalogue.

Religious campaigners have also spoken out against the show. "I think the whole city should picket the show . . . [it] is designed to shock, but instead it induces revulsion," said William A Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

A spokesman for Chris Ofili called the threats "totalitarian and fascistic".

The touring exhibition of works owned by Charles Saatchi, was due to open on 2 October, but its future is now in doubt.

The Brooklyn Museum of Art is dependant on government grants - the money from City Hall Mr Guiliani is threatening to withold accounts for more than a third of the institutions annual budget.

Ofili's paintings are not the only works in the $1m show to spark controversy.

Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst's work angers animal rights groups
Damien Hirst's art has also come under fire from the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who are angered by his use of carcasses.

The Turner prize winner's work This Little Pig Goes To Market, This Little Pig Stayed At Home features a pig sliced nose to tail preserved in two tanks of formaldehyde.

His other works include cows treated in the same way, a whole shark and a sheep.

The Sensation exhibition, staged at London's Royal Academy last summer, also attracted criticism.

Opposition to the show centred around Marcus Harvey's Myra - a portrait of Myra Hindley created with children's handprints, which some said trivialised the Moors Murders.

Demonstrators threw eggs and ink at the painting, but it was cleaned and returned to display in the exhibition which was visited by nearly 300,000 people, more than any previous contemporary art show.

See also:

01 Dec 98 | Entertainment
Elephant dung painter wins Turner prize
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