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N.Y. Mayor Freezes Museum’s Funds

September 24, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has frozen $7 million in city funding for one of the city’s largest art museums over an exhibit that includes a dung-splattered painting of the Virgin Mary and pig halves in formaldehyde.

Giuliani described as ``sick″ the show scheduled to open Oct. 2 at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and said work that offends religious sensibilities doesn’t deserve public money.

The city money amounts to nearly one-third of the museum’s budget.

He also objected Thursday to the museum’s plan to require children under 17 to be accompanied to the show by an adult, and one of his deputies suggested the museum buy its city-leased building if it doesn’t like his position.

``I don’t approve closing down access to a museum that’s paid for by the taxpayers,″ Giuliani said. ``What about the First Amendment rights of the children ... who aren’t allowed to go in?″

Critics said the mayor’s position comes dangerously close to censorship.

The show, ``Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection,″ has been advertised for several weeks, and the city has several representatives on the museum’s board. Asked why he waited to take action, Giuliani said he hadn’t been made aware of the exhibit until recently.

The exhibit includes a painting of the Virgin Mary splattered with elephant dung, two pig halves floating in formaldehyde and a 13-foot high rendering of a notorious British child killer.

Museum director Arnold Lehman said the items are meaningful.

``Contemporary art has always been provocative, it’s been challenging,″ he said. ``That’s what art of our time is about.″

He defended the decision to restrict children’s entry.

``We think we’re acting quite appropriately, giving parents the discretion to choose for their children,″ Lehman said.

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