Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Camille Paglia: Zealous Howling

First appeared in The American Prospect

Oops, She Did It Again

A year and a half after the headline-making Sensation exhibit, the Brooklyn Museum of Art has sparked yet another controversy involving art, religion, freedom of expression, the role of the museum, and, not least of all, the nature of art criticism--which the philosopher Arthur Danto not long ago characterized as "a form of zealous howling." In the case of both Brooklyn shows, one of the most zealous howlers has been New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. When Sensation opened, he threatened to cut off public funding for the museum, an initiative soon extinguished by the courts. His response to the museum's current show, Committed to the Image: Contemporary Black Photographers, has been to call for a "decency panel," an idea that New Yorkers have tended to slough off with comments like "What's he know about decency? He's been cheating on his wife for years."

But the award for loudest howling by an art critic would have to go to Camille Paglia, who should get special mention for making big noises about both shows without bothering to attend either one in person--extraordinary behavior from someone who calls herself an "arts educator."