An art gallery's exhibition poster that features a Mickey Mouse head and a swastika has outraged many in Poland, which lost 6 million citizens to the Holocaust.
Lukasz Ogrodowczyk/AFP Photo/Newscom
Abnormals Gallery saw the swastika-featuring poster as a catchy way to promote its upcoming exhibition, Abnormal Nudes, in the Polish city of Poznan. But the decision to hang the oversized artwork (which spans several stories) on the outside of the gallery building has sparked outrage, vandalism, and even threats of legal action. The furor is a reminder of the potency of the symbol in a country that lost some 3 million Jews to the Holocaust.
The gallery says the image by Italian artist Max Papeschi – which features a nude woman with a Mickey Mouse head lying under a large swastika – serves to mock the profoundly controversial symbol. The image belongs to the Papeschi series titled "Politically Incorrect," which the artist says targets the "horrors" of the lifestyle in the United States. Papeschi’s works are to be exhibited with those of 30 other international artists.
"The artist clearly aimed at ridiculing the swastika,” says Maria Czarnecka, Abnormals Gallery’s manager. "Papeschi’s art piece shows that this symbol has become a part of pop culture, stripped from its original meaning,” she adds.
But a Poznan city councilor saw it differently, asking the local prosecutor's office to investigate the case under a Polish law that criminalizes spreading Nazi ideology and symbols, including the swastika. The prosecutor's office declined, saying the poster was art.
"For Poles, the swastika stands for the suffering and death of over 6 million Polish citizens,” councilor Norbert Napieraj wrote in his motion to the prosecutor’s office, as quoted by the Polish news agency PAP, referring to the World War II extermination of Jewish and Christian Poles in Nazi death camps.
Emotions reached their peak in late June, when the poster was vandalized by unknown perpetrators. The manager of the gallery, which opens in September, told journalists that the police are currently investigating the incident. The outdoor banner came down this week, though Ms. Czarnecka says she will put it back up.