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'Racist' Swedish artist's Danish show cancelled

The Local · 29 Sep 2014, 09:28

Published: 29 Sep 2014 09:28 GMT+02:00

The Danish radio station Radio24syv has cancelled its plans to have the works of ‘racist’ Swedish artist Dan Park exhibited in Copenhagen. 
 
The controversial Park was convicted by a Malmö court in August on charges of inciting racial agitation and defamation. 
 
Radio24syv obtained more than 30 of Park’s works, including ‘Hang-on Afrobians’, which depicts three Swedish residents with African backgrounds portrayed with nooses around their necks. 
 
Other works include a Catholic bishop receiving fellatio from a young boy and Jesus having sex with Muhammad. Nine of the 31 art pieces obtained by Radio24syv through Park’s gallerist were ordered to be destroyed by the Swedish court. 
 
Radio24syv’s plans to have a gallerist in Copenhagen display the works as a statement on free speech came under heavy scrutiny, especially considering that the station is financed through public licence funds. The controversy led the station to cancel the ‘happening’ originally scheduled for Tuesday. 
 
“We found it interesting that a long line of well-known Danish debaters threw themselves into the debate on the necessity of displaying pieces without having seen them. But given the recent debate about our initiative, we must unfortunately conclude that the exhibition cannot go forward,” Radio24syv wrote in a press release. 
 
The station had initially planned to find a gallerist who would be willing to display the controversial pieces of art in an undisclosed location in Copenhagen. 
 
“What we’ve done is to set up the exhibition at a secret location in Copenhagen, frame and light the pictures, then lock the door. In principle, the exhibition does not therefore exist. This is a private action and does not exist in the public domain,” Mads Brügger, the station’s head of programming, told DR. 
 
The station’s plans were the result of extensive debate in Denmark about Park’s conviction in Sweden. The two nations typically have very different approaches to the topic of the freedom of speech. Recent examples include a Danish art project that was meant to highlight diversity being banned from a Swedish festival and Radio24syv’s programme aimed at getting Swedes to break their “downward spiral of silence”.
 
Park shot to infamy in 2011 when he created and distributed posters with a picture of Jallow Momodou of the National Afro-Swedish Association superimposed on the image of a naked man in chains.
 
"Our negro slave has run away," read the text on the posters.
 
Story continues below…
Momodou claimed the posters were racist and offensive, while Park argued that the purpose of the posters was to highlight the issue of free speech.
 
At the time of his initial arrest in 2011, Park told The Local that he thought the prosecutors were overreacting.
 
”Was I surprised to be charged? Yes and no. I think it is a waste of tax payers' money mainly. It wasn't a big deal. And no one should be able to tell me what kind of art I can create,” he said.
 
Park is currently serving a six-month jail sentence for his art and was also forced to pay a total of 60,000 Swedish kronor ($8,700) in damages to four people depicted in his pictures. 

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