City Censors Controversial 9/11-Themed ArtPrize Sculpture Days Before Show Opens

The artist is looking for a new venue for his work.

Artist Nabil Mousa. Photo: Facebook.
Nabil Mousa, Paradise Built on the Bones of the Slaughtered.

Nabil Mousa, Paradise Built on the Bones of the Slaughtered.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

ArtPrize, the famously populist art contest based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, may see one would-be participant left out of the running this year over a controversial work.

Nabil Mousa‘s artistic response to the September 11, 2001 attacks features charred copies of religious texts attached to two metal towers. It was originally slated to be displayed at City Hall, one of the more than 160 participating ArtPrize venues spread throughout the city.

However, on September 11 of this year, it was announced that the piece, Paradise Built on the Bones of the Slaughtered, would be pulled from the venue due to a misunderstanding on the part of the venue’s curator, who believed the city had granted permission to display the piece when in fact they had not.

While independent venues can display whatever they want, the city’s Arts Advisory Committee must approve all works to be shown at the ten city-owned locations. ArtPrize initially tried to mediate the conflict with City Hall, but when committee officials refused to compromise, the organization granted Mousa until 12 p.m. tomorrow to find an alternate place to display the sculpture.

Artist Nabil Mousa. Photo: Facebook.

Artist Nabil Mousa.
Photo: Facebook.

Mousa, a Syrian-American artist who is based in Atlanta, told MLive that he has received several emails expressing support for the project, but is yet to find a venue willing and able to take it in at the last minute.

“My mission with this is to open up dialogue,” Mousa told MLive. “So give me the opportunity. Talk to me and then make a decision. For you to completely block me out is unfair.”

This isn’t ArtPrize’s first brush with the local government. Last year, Kalamazoo-based artist SinGh was permanently banned from the competition by the city after unfurling a three-mile long painting that defied multiple safety codes. The painting allegedly ran across roads, sidewalks, and both public and private property. In 2012, SinGh’s installation, which involved topics like beastiality, suicide, and rape, was also pulled prior to the event by the owners of the private venue where it was to be displayed.

ArtPrize, which runs from September 23-October 11, awards a total of over $500,000 to participating artists. A $200,000 prize is selected by a jury, while another prize is chosen by the public. This year’s competition will feature 1,500 entries created by over 1,700 artists.

Related stories: 

An ArtPrize Surprise Lights the Way to a Better Art World

Is the Populist ArtPrize Becoming . . . Snobby?

Anish Kapoor Forced by French Court to Remove Anti-Semitic Vandalism from Versailles Sculpture


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