Saddam Hussein Shark:

BBC News reports:

A town in Belgium has banned an artwork of Saddam Hussein for fear that it will put off tourists and offend Muslims.

The piece, called Saddam Hussein Shark, shows the handcuffed ex-Iraqi ruler suspended in liquid and wearing nothing more than underpants. [EV: Click on the link above to see the picture.]

The mayor of Middelkerke, Michel Landuyt, said the work could "shock people", including Muslims.

He said he decided to ban Czech artist David Cerny's sculpture before the row over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. . . .

"They wanted to put this piece in a location where many children come, so that couldn't be allowed," [the mayor] told the BBC.

He added that the work was now going to be displayed in a museum in the Belgian city of Ostend.

"When you go to a museum and are prepared to see those things and there is an explanation, perhaps there is no problem. But when you come somewhere where you don't expect that, it can be a problem," he said. . . .

Bareknucklepolitics pointed to this story, seemingly to condemn it; and if the city is indeed banning the display of this work on private property, that would be quite troublesome. On the other hand, if the work was to be displayed on city property -- which would presumably involve some preferential treatment by the city, since I doubt that the city lets anyone install just any artwork on its property -- then I think the city is entitled to decide that the work is bad for tourism, or offensive to some of its citizens.

Does anyone have more details on this? Was the "ban" simply a refusal to host the work on city property, or a city-imposed prohibition on its display even on private property?

Jesse (mail) (www):
The work is part of the Beaufort 2006 Modern Arts Festival. Radio Prauge reports that "The sculpture was supposed to be exhibited on one of the town squares as part of this April's Beaufort 2006 Modern Arts Festival." Though I haven't found an article that makes it clear either way, that certainly sounds like public property.

The festival covers at least 10 towns along the coast, but it's not clear if the artist or organizers tried to move the work to another town. However, the Museum of Modern Art by the sea in Ostend is part of the festival, so the sculpture is just being moved from the outdoor section of the festival to the indoor section.
2.10.2006 2:38pm
Tony (mail):
Why would a work denigrating Saddam Hussein offend Muslims? He was no friend to Islam, and worked hard to counter its influence during his rule.
2.10.2006 4:00pm
I don't think only Muslims would be offended, as I was hugely offended by the photos in the New York Post showing Saddam in his underwear. I found it typical of the trashy, prurient, lowest common denominator mentality that has become synonymous with the Post. I encourage and support any municipality which refuses to display such offensive material. Those who condemn sadistic, murderous dictators should make the intellectual argument as to why such behavior is an affront to humanity. Trashy attempts at mockery serve no valid purpose.
2.10.2006 4:12pm
Tareeq (www):
I was prepared to ask why anyone would expect such a statue to promote Belgian tourism in the first place. Thanks for the context Jesse.
2.11.2006 8:01am