Art censorship continues to be a major problem, particularly when it comes to anything pushing social and sexual boundaries. This week, a protest in Warsaw broke out along with an outpouring of social media posts, after an artwork depicting a woman eating a banana was removed from Poland’s National Gallery.
Natalia LL’s ”Consumer Art” (1973), was deemed 'improper' by the Ministry of Culture, which also banned another work of art from the gallery showing a woman walking two men on leashes. This comes as part of a larger debate surrounding art and culture, following the rise of Poland's right-wing government, led by the conservative Law and Justice party since last year.
In response to the censorship, hundreds of people stood outside the gallery in protest on Tuesday (April 30), eating bananas and fashioning the peels into headwear. There was a stall on site offering enviable banana nail art. Protesters have also been posting photos of themselves online with the fruit, ridiculing the ban with the surprisingly versatile selfie prop.
One protester who posted a #bananaselfie on Instagram, Karolina Kociolek, told Dazed: “This isn’t the first time politicians have banned Polish art… it’s ridiculous because the photos are from the 70s, and people could see them in the museum before. It is similar to censorship from the times of the PRL (Poland’s former communist state), but now we are a democratic country.”
Anna Zakrzewska, an art history student from Poland who also posted a selfie, said: “This isn’t about art itself. Our current government is using baby steps to quietly filter, censor or ban our freedom… if we tolerate these things, we will wake up deprived of our democracy.”
Art critics have been quick to point out that Natalia LL’s work is not only a feminist statement, but also a critique of food shortages under Polish Communist Rule, which made the banana a luxury item at the time. This, however, seems to have done little to appease the Ministry of Culture’s puritanism.
Since the protests, the work has been reinstalled in the gallery, but only until next week, when the museum is due to be reorganised.