Three controversial pieces at the Guggenheim, all part of a larger exhibit due to open Oct. 6, have been pulled. The "Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World" showing, which will feature about 150 works from Chinese artists, came under fire for a handful of pieces that included live animals or insects, infuriating animal rights activists. Per the New York Times, the NYC museum decided Monday to yank those three works after protests and an online petition, with the museum noting in a statement the removals were necessary "out of concern for the safety of its staff, visitors, and participating artists" due to "explicit and repeated threats of violence." The exhibit with the most pushback: "Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other," a piece by husband-and-wife team Sun Yuan and Peng Yu that included video of pit bulls trying to charge each other (but not being allowed to make contact).
Also yanked: "A Case Study of Transference," which would've shown video of two pigs having sex, and "Theater of the World," which had planned to showcase live insects and reptiles skittering about under a lamp. The museum was initially steadfast about keeping the works, but public outcry escalated, with the Guardian noting even celebrities like Ricky Gervais and Richard Marx were decrying the pieces as cruel to animals. Huang Yong Ping, the artist behind "Theater of the World," tells the Times he hadn't been aware his piece was being pulled until the paper informed him (he had no comment), and Peng simply said, "I don't want to talk about this anymore" when the paper reached her. The museum says it's "dismayed" it had to remove the works. "Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim," its statement notes.