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  1. Culture
3 November 2008updated 12 Oct 2023 9:47am

A load of Banksy?

By Ruth Collins

Taking liberties

In a week of controversy fuelled by the Brand-Ross duo, it seems pertinent to question the extent to which we should exercise our freedom of expression. Certainly, when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi decided to fund the 1977 film The Message starring Anthony Quinn as the Prophet Mohammed, he never guessed that the film would have incited such violent public outrage. Protesting against its intention to visually represent their Prophet on screen, a dozen Muslims stormed three civic buildings in Washington. The captors took 150 people hostage and demanded that the movie be destroyed. The reality was that Quinn never appeared in the film as anything more than a voice from off-screen. In spite of the original controversy, Oscar Zoghbi has announced his plans to release a new version of the film entitled The Messenger of Peace, which will be set around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

As shown in Ketan Mehta film The Colours of Passion, the legendary Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma also got himself into hot water when he depicted Hindu gods and goddesses in his paintings and was tried for blasphemy.

A more contemporary example of taking liberties is illustrated by Nicolas Sarkozy’s voodoo doll case. The French President recently lost a court case battle to take a voodoo doll in his likeness off the shop shelves. The court claimed that selling the voodoo doll was not against the law and fell within the parameters of “free expression” and the “right to humour”. Unfortunately for Sarkozy, he hasn’t seen the funny side.

Poland gets a taste of Albert Square

A Polish Soap opera entitled Londynczycy – Londoners – which premiered in Poland this week is designed to give Polish people a taste of how their fellow Poles are getting along over here in the UK. With more hype than Big Brother, the show has been dubbed as the Polish equivalent of Eastenders and the billboard advertising campaign features the slogan “Wielka Brytania, wielke nadzieje” (Great Britain, Great Expectations).

It remains to be seen whether expectations have been met.

Raphael’s Madonna restored to former glory

There was little hope for Raphael‘s Madonna of the Goldfinch (Madonna del Cardellino) when it was shattered into 17 pieces in 1547. Originally painted to mark the marriage of a prosperous wool merchant, Lorenzo Nasi, the painting was almost completely destroyed when their house collapsed 461 years ago. The masterpiece has now been repaired using nails to join up the fragments and paint to cover any fractures. The piece will be centre stage at Florence’s Palazzo Medici before returning to the city’s Uffizi Gallery.

Banksy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea

Banksy, the much-hyped “street artist”, ironically came up against a brick wall this week when Westminster council asked him to remove his latest mural from a wall in Newman Street. Despite the fact that the artist’s work has lined the likes of London’s Saatchi Gallery, the council has condemned the One Nation Under CCTV mural, saying it is as much an act of vandalism as any other graffiti. They have admitted that the work has artistic merit, just perhaps not on their patch.

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