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Posted 11 Jun 2001   For week ended June 08, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 10Jun01

By Kent Larsen

Rodin Back in Utah -- Uncensored

Rodin Back in Utah -- Uncensored

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The University of Utah's new Marcia and John Price Museum Building opened Saturday with an exhibit of over 70 works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, giving Utah residents the chance to see "The Kiss" one of four Rodin works withheld when a smaller traveling exhibit, "The Hands of Rodin, a Tribute to B. Gerald Cantor" was presented at BYU's Museum of Art. BYU's decision to withhold the four works led to widespread surprise in the media and expressions of embarrassment among BYU-trained artists.

The new exhibit, "Rodin: Sculpture from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection," consists of 70 works including "The Kiss," a sculpture of a nude man and woman kissing that is one of the most famous of Rodin's works. The University's Utah Museum of Art is only the third venue in the United States to get this traveling exhibit. The works come from the world's single largest collection of Rodin's works, including more than 300 sculptures and a total of 750 items including drawings, prints, photographs and memorabilia collected by the Cantors since 1945. The scuptures are casts of Rodin originals, with some of the items cast after the artists's death, and a few cast as recently as 1992.

For some visitors to the Museum on its opening day, Saturday, "The Kiss" was the most important work to see. "We wanted to see the uncensored Rodin," said Carol Martin-Mahoney, who brought her daughter and grandchildren to the museum opening. "The Kiss" along with "Saint John The Baptist Preaching," "The Prodigal Son," and "Monument to Balzac," were all pulled from BYU's exhibit in late 1997 and January of 1998. But "The Kiss" is the only one of the four pulled works in the current exhibit.

BYU's Museum of Art opened the "Hands of Rodin" exhibit October 27, 1997 without the four sculptures, leading to a storm of controversy and criticism. At the time, the museum's director, Campbell Gray, defended the decision by saying that the works would offend community standards. "We have felt that the nature of those works are such that the viewer will be concentrating on them in a way that is not good for us," he said. "Sure, it could reflect negatively on the museum but the integrity of the exhibit is so much more important."

The Cantor Foundation's then acting director, Rachael Blackburn, said that the foundation was shocked at the decision, "We haven't had any other institutions that felt the need to not exhibit any pieces by Rodin. I can't say that we weren't surprised. We were," she told the Associated Press at the time. Local art lovers accused the museum of censorship, but Gray claimed that the decision was more complex than that. He said that the museum was expressing the feelings of the school, the LDS Church and much of the community. He added that the museum and BYU are representatives of the LDS Church, and said those works would be disrespectful to the church and the community.

The decision drew a protest from 200 students at BYU, who held their protest in spite of being told they had to wait five days for a permit. In the end BYU President Merrill J. Bateman said responsibility for the decision ultimately rested with him and said that the thousands of elementary school children that visit the museum each year were a major factor in the decision.

The Utah Museum of Art's curator of exhibitions, David Dee, says that Rodin shouldn't be a controversial artist today, "As a museum, our purpose is to educate and inspire and play an important role in visual arts in Utah. It's certainly not to incite controversy. Given the broad acceptance and universal esteem of Rodin's work -- I mean, he's not considered a controversial figure in today's art world -- I think the show stands completely on its own," he said.


One for the Rodin
Salt Lake Tribune 3Jun01 D3
By Elizabeth Neff: Salt Lake Tribune

Museum to show Rodin uncensored
Provo UT Daily Herald (AP) pgA5 2Jun01 D3
The Associated Press


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