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Prohibition of banana eating art ridicules in Poland



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Demonstrators say the removal of the work of art is censorship.

CZAREK SOKOLOWSKI / AP

Demonstrators say the removal of the work of art is censorship.

A few hundred people, mostly young people, ate bananas outside Warsaw's main national gallery on Monday to protest against what they called censorship after Polish officials removed works of art that showed the fruit, saying that was improper.

The protest was called by opposition artists and politicians as part of their action on Facebook and Twitter to post pictures of themselves eating bananas to ridicule the ban. The action grew in a show of apparent government criticism.

The 1973 video Art of the Consumer, by artist Natalia LL, showing a young woman eating a banana with great pleasure, was removed from the National Museum in Warsaw last week after the new head of the museum, Jerzy Miziolek, was summoned to the Ministry of Culture.

The dispute is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding art and culture under conservative and nationalist rule.

CZAREK SOKOLOWSKI / AP

The dispute is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding art and culture under conservative and nationalist rule.

Miziolek said in an interview with the Onet.pl Last week, the site "was opposed to showing works that could irritate sensitive youngsters" and suggested that some visitors complained. Work has been in the gallery for many years.

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A separate 2005 video of another controversial female artist, Katarzyna Kozyra, showing a woman walking with two men of four, dressed as dogs on a lead lane, was also removed.

Polish actress Magdalena Cielecka points a banana like a gun on her head to protest against the removal of a work of art.

DARIO SALINA / AP

Polish actress Magdalena Cielecka points a banana like a gun on her head to protest against the removal of a work of art.

On Monday, Miziolek announced that the works would be reinstated, but only until May 6, when the entire modern art gallery should be reorganized. Miziolek and the Ministry of Culture denied that there was any pressure on the museum.

Miziolek, who was nominated for the state museum by the right-wing government in November, said on Monday that he appreciated the role of both artists in Polish culture, but gallery space required "creative changes" in the exhibition.

The dispute is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding art and culture under the conservative and nationalist government that won power in 2015.

People with bananas demonstrate with other people outside the National Museum of Warsaw.

CZAREK SOKOLOWSKI / AP

People with bananas demonstrate with other people outside the National Museum of Warsaw.

Culture Minister Piotr Glinski has repeatedly criticized the cut of subsidies to art festivals that planned to show controversial plays on Catholic subjects. Glinski dismissed a popular theater director who criticized him, as did the director of a World War II museum, saying that the exhibition did not show enough suffering or heroism in Poland.

He recently cut funds for the European Solidarity Center, an exhibition on the history of the Solidarity movement and a center of popular culture among critics of the government, saying that his activity went beyond his mission of teaching history.

Twitter and Facebook users ridiculed the removal of works of art as tersely and a case of censorship, and many posted photos of themselves enjoying bananas.

Actress Magdalena Cielecka said The Associated Press that the image she posted, her pointing a banana to her head like a weapon, was in protest against any ideological or political limits imposed on the artists.

"An artist, to create, must be free," said Cielecka.

In the banana ban on Monday, some people brought more than one banana, while others put the banana peels on their heads. Some unarmed police officers were on the scene outside the museum, which is closed on Mondays.

Senate spokesman and prominent member of the Law and Justice party, Stanislaw Karczewski, tried to discredit the protest by tweeting that Polish apples are tastier than bananas and have fewer calories.

"#BananowyProtest (banana protest) is the direct path to obesity," said Karczewski.

The controversy was widely commented on in the national media.

Art critics note that Consumer Art was a critical commentary on the food shortages under the communist regime in the 1970s.

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