arts

Protesters stage 'eat-in' as Polish gallery plans to ditch video installation of woman eating banana

Updated 30th April 2019
Natalia LL's 1973 artwork depicting a naked woman eating a banana is set to be removed from the National Museum in Warsaw on May 6.
Credit: Carmen Jaspersen/picture alliance/Getty Image
Protesters stage 'eat-in' as Polish gallery plans to ditch video installation of woman eating banana
Written by Matthew Robinson, CNN
Polish politicians and artists have taken to social media to protest a decision to remove an artwork depicting a woman eating a banana from a leading national gallery.
The National Museum of Warsaw announced last week that it intends to remove the 1973 video "Consumer Art" by artist Natalia LL, which depicts a naked woman eating a banana in a suggestive manner.
Jerzy Miziolek, the director of the museum, told Polish news site Onet.pl last week that he was "opposed to showing works that could irritate sensitive young people."
His comments raised concerns that the museum was censoring its content, and protesters have taken to social media, posting photos of themselves with bananas in defiance.
Sylwia Kowalczyk, a Polish photographer now based in Scotland, posted a photo of herself on Instagram eating a banana in protest against the museum's decision.
Sylwia Kowalczyk, a Polish photographer now based in Scotland, posted a photo of herself on Instagram eating a banana in protest against the museum's decision. Credit: SYLWIA KOWALCYZK/INSTAGRAM
A banana-eating protest is scheduled to take place outside the museum in central Warsaw on Monday evening.
Sylwia Kowalczyk, a photographer who grew up in Poland but now lives and works in Scotland, said this sort of treatment "should not happen to any artist, male or female."
"Natalia Lach-Lachowicz is one of the icons of the Polish contemporary art and has her place in art history already," she told CNN.
Justyna Piechuta, another photographer, described the museum's decision as "terrible" and told CNN that she "can't imagine in today's world someone would try to ban art just because of their views on art or sexuality."
"For me, Natalia's works are a view on feminism, however the banana that was used in the image is also a symbol of freedom."
Justyna Piechuta said Natalia LL's use of the banana in her images was a 'symbol of freedom.'
Justyna Piechuta said Natalia LL's use of the banana in her images was a 'symbol of freedom.' Credit: JUSTYNA PIECHUTA/INSTAGRAM
Piechuta said the work was created at a time when Poland was still under communist rule, noting that the banana was seen as "something luxurious for an average person."
Despite earlier concern that the work had already been removed, Miziolek, the museum's director, said in a statement Monday that it will remain until May 6. It will then be removed as part of a "rearrangement" of the museum's 20th- and 21st-century gallery.
Politician Michal Szczerba, from the opposition Civic Platform party, described the latest announcement as a "small success in the fight against artistic censorship."
Miziolek said, however, that alterations to the gallery were not a sign of censorship or disregard for the artworks currently present, and acknowledged the role that Natalia LL had played in Polish art.
He said that "creative changes must take place" due to limited space in the gallery, and that the decision was part of the "dynamic vision of the functioning of the institution."
Miziolek also denied claims that the decision had been influenced by Culture Minister Piotr Glinski or that he had been summoned to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
People with bananas demonstrate outside the National Museum of Warsaw on April 29, 2019, to protest against censorship, after authorities removed an artwork at the museum presenting a woman eating a banana.
People with bananas demonstrate outside the National Museum of Warsaw on April 29, 2019, to protest against censorship, after authorities removed an artwork at the museum presenting a woman eating a banana. Credit: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images
People ate bananas in protest of the museum's decision.
People ate bananas in protest of the museum's decision. Credit: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images
"I was not called to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and all decisions were made personally, after consultations with specialists dealing with 20th- and 21st-century art," he said in a statement.
The ministry itself backed Miziolek's stance, writing in a statement Monday: "The director of the National Museum in Warsaw was not called to the ministry regarding the reorganization of the Gallery of 20th and 21st Century Art, which he himself admits today in a statement."
CNN has contacted Natalia LL's representatives for comment.