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Hangin’ with Stalin at Cooper Union

November 14, 2008


City Room Blog -NYT

After complaints to the city Buildings Department, and concern from the Urkainian community in the East Village, Cooper Union removed a giant banner with a reproduction of a Picasso drawing of Joseph Stalin. That decision has outraged Lene Berg, the 43-year-old Norwegian artist who included the banner as part of her one-woman art installation, “Stalin by Picasso, or Portrait of Woman with Mustache,” in the school’s historic Foundation Building, on East Seventh Street.

“They took it down before I even had a chance to know what was going on,” she said. “In a sense, I think it’s self-censorship on their part.” She said she asked Cooper Union to close the entire show, because the banner was an integral part of it. “They ruined my show, my work,” she said.

In a statement issued to Cooper Union staff members and students, the university said it removed the banner after the Buildings Department, which had received complaints about it, pointed out the school did not have a permit for it. The school also said the removal of the banner occurred as a “gesture of respect for our neighbors,” since this year marked the 75th anniversary of a famine imposed by Stalin that killed millions of Ukrainians.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has joined in the fray.


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