ZURICH (Reuters) – A sculpture made with the pickled head of a dead fetus attached to a seagull’s body has fueled a furor in Switzerland about the boundaries of art.
Berne’s Museum of Fine Arts removed the piece from a Chinese art exhibition earlier this month after a complaint that it was disrespectful to the dead, and following concerns its grisly appearance might traumatize visiting schoolchildren.
The piece, named "Ruan," stole headlines in Swiss newspapers when artist Xiao Yu confirmed that the fetus head was real.
Now the museum’s management will decide next week whether to reinstate the work, which sits pickled in a jar of formaldehyde.
"As a result of the complaint it was taken out of the exhibition with the proviso that there would be a debate about the boundaries of art," museum spokeswoman Ruth Gilgen said.
Earlier this week, ethics experts, artists and art lovers argued at a conference in Berne that keeping the work under wraps was an affront to freedom of expression.
Swiss journalist Adrien de Riedmatten, who lodged the complaint, had demanded to know where the head came from.
"The complaint was not about restricting artistic freedom but rather about where this fetus had come from and how the artist found it," Gilgen said.
She said the head had belonged to a fetus conceived sometime in the early 1960s. It was later a museum exhibit.
"It had formed part of an exhibition in formaldehyde in Peking," Gilgen said. "When that came to be renewed, it fell into the hands of the artist." [Source]