A protest against BP sponsorship at the British Museum's Day of the Dead festival last year. Photo: Diana More

Poll: do museums take fewer risks to avoid protests?

Nicola Sullivan, 22.06.2016
Vote in the poll and have your say
New guidelines for museums and galleries on managing disturbances have raised questions about the cultural sector's appetite for risk.

Produced by What Next? and Index on Censorship and published by Arts Council England (ACE), the guidelines state that governing bodies are becoming increasingly risk-averse due to fears of protests and demonstrations.

The publication aims to help cultural institutions programming potentially controversial work, as well as developing plans to manage controversy if it emerges.

“We recognise that the circumstances in which work is shown varies enormously around the country; police forces must take into account the particular local context when planning advice and any police response,” continued the blog written jointly by Simon Meller, ACE's executive director for arts and culture and Nicole McNeilly, the officer for policy and research.

“However, to date the police service has had no agreed guidance to help it deal with potentially controversial art works. In this vacuum, police forces will often tend towards caution to minimise the potential risk of disorder. The result, in our view, is that in too many cases the public’s ability to experience art (however controversial and difficult) is being restricted.”

Tate Modern in London is one of the latest cultural institutions to be targeted by protesters. This month a group of campaigners dressed in black, including feminist activists Sisters Uncut stormed the gallery to protest against its display of artist Carl Andre’s work, according to an article by the New Statesman.

Andre was acquitted of killing his wife and fellow artist Ana Mendieta in 1985. Some protesters were also angered by the fact that Mendieta’s work was not on display, while others were frustrated by the lack of minority representation in the gallery, reported the New Statesman.


The British Museum was forced to close temporarily when activists who wanted it to end its deal with BP scaled the side of the building.


In 2014, following protests outside of its building in London, the Barbican was forced to pull a controversial art installation, featuring black chained actors.


Do museums take fewer risks to avoid protests? Vote in our poll and have your say.




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