Brooklyn Museum of Art

La collection Saatchi à New York

Au cours de l'automne 1999, le maire de la Ville de New York, Rudolph W. Giuliani, a menacé de retirer toute contribution financière au Brooklyn Museum of Art si l'exposition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection ouvrait ses portes. À celle du maire de New York, d'autres voix se joignirent dénonçant l'initiative du musée. «We are calling for New Yorkers of every religion to boycott the Brooklyn Museum of Art. We will also seek to defund the institution of public money by writing to the appropriate public officials», écrivait notamment le président de la Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, William Donohue, dans les pages de Catalyst. L'exposition collective, qui regroupait notamment le travail des controversés artistes anglais Damien Hirst et Chris Ofili, devait avoir lieu du 2 octobre 1999 au 9 janvier 2000.


Aspects juridiques

Le 1er novembre 1999, la juge Nina Gershon de la Cour fédérale du district est de New York a accordé une injonction provisoire au musée afin d'empêcher M. Giuliani de mettre ses menaces à exécution: «Whether the art shown is perceived as offensive or respectful, vulgar or banal, «good» art or «bad» art, the Mayor and the City offer no basis for the court to conclude that the Exhibit falls outside the broad parameters of the enabling legislation. [...] There is also no language in the Lease or Contract that gives the Mayor or the City the right to veto works chosen for exhibition by the Museum. The Contract provides for the City to make maintenance payments to the Museum, without stating any conditions regarding the content of the Museum's artworks. The inability of the City and the Mayor to identify any standard for what constitutes a Lease or Contract violation, other than the Mayor and Deputy Mayor's personal views, reinforces the conclusion that it has never been contemplated that the City or the Mayor would have veto power over the Museum's decisions as to what to display.»

Malgré une première victoire judiciaire, le directeur du BMA, Arnold L. Lehman, a dû défendre son institution dans une lettre publique. «All of us at the BMA are committed to leading the Museum into the 21st century on a platform of vigorous, innovative and unfettered thinking about what an art museum can be. We want to establish the BMA as a primary art destination for every tourist and every resident in New York City, reflecting the ethnic, racial, national, religious, economic, and lifestyle diversity of our population», écrivait-il, le 14 décembre 1999.

Une entente a mis fin au litige le 27 mars 2000, les deux parties retirant leurs récriminations respectives: «The Brooklyn Museum of Art and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the City of New York have today agreed to end the litigation between them arising out of the Museum's exhibition of Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection. United States District Judge Nina Gershon, with the consent of all parties, entered a permanent injunction earlier today barring the City and the Mayor from punishing or retaliating against the Museum in any way as a result of the Museum's decision to display the exhibition. All New York City funding previously allocated for the Museum will continue and an additional $5.8 million in capital funding for the Museum will be included in the Mayor's upcoming executive budgets.»


Aller plus loin

On peut consulter le catalogue de l'exposition publié aux éditions londoniennes Thames & Hudson, plusieurs articles consacrés à la controverse et à la Collection Saatchi dans des magazines et des revues d'art, ainsi que le site de Damien Hirst. On peut également visiter la nouvelle Galerie Saatchi qui a ouvert ses portes à Londres, le 17 avril 2003.


Références bibliographiques

Articles de presse

Bickers, Patricia, «Sense & Sensation: on dealing futures in art», Art Monthly, novembre 1997, p. 1.

Kimmelman, Michael, «Separating cynicism and shock – The real costs of an art debate», The New York Times, 24 septembre 1999, p. A25.

Anonyme, «Beastly exhibit at Brooklyn Museum of Art», Catalyst, octobre 1999, p.?.

Kimball, Roger, «Mr. Giuliani knows what he doesn't like», National Post, 1er octobre 1999, p. A18.

Wilson, George, «Furor over painting reveals conflicted attitudes towards the body, sexuality», National Catholic Reporter, 10 décembre 1999, p.?.

Dubin, Steven C., «How Sensation became a scandal», Art in America, janvier 2000, p. 53.

Lucie-Smith, Edward, «The Saatchi decade and beyond», Art Review, février 2000, p. 36.

Rosenbaum, Lee, «The battle of Brooklyn ends, the controversy continues», Art in America, juin 2000, p. 39.



Brooklyn Institute of Arts & Sciences c. City of New York, (1999) 64 F. Supp. 2d 184 (EDNY).


Ouvrages généraux

Collectif, Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, Londres, Thames & Hudson, 1998.


Documentation institutionnelle

Brooklyn Museum of Art (New York), A Letter from Director about Sensation (14 décembre 1999).

Brooklyn Museum of Art (New York), Statement of Robert S. Rubin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, The Brooklyn Museum of Art (27 mars 2000).