The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brush with Bush in the buff
- Museum caught in storm over cartoon-style nude

Washington, Oct. 9: With feelings against President George W. Bush running at fever pitch among anti-war activists, civil libertarians, artists and other usual suspects ahead of the November 2 presidential poll, a local museum has been unexpectedly caught up in a controversy over the president's nudity and is to close down altogether.

The City Museum of Washington, which opened amidst great fanfare here with the support of local businesses, non-profit foundations and the capital's residents 18 months ago, was to stage a signature event by local artists this month that was designed to attract patrons to the new, struggling institution.

But the museum's board discovered ahead of the opening of 'Funky Furniture', a living room art show of painted furniture and other items, that one of the exhibits was to be a cartoon-style nude painting of Bush.

The painting, Man of Leisure: King George by local artist Kayti Didriksen, showed Bush relaxing on a sofa without any clothes on and covering his private parts with his palm, being waited upon by a man resembling his Vice-President Dick Cheney.

The caricature is modelled on Olympia, a famous Impressionist painting by Edouard Manet which is in the Gare d'Orsay Museum in Paris.

Just as Didriksen's work has now scandalised Washington, Manet's Olympia shocked 19th century Paris.

Cheney in Man of Leisure: King George replaces the female servant in Olympia and stands reverentially near the President, holding a ceremonial blue cushion with a crown on it. Rich in political symbolism, the crown holds a miniature oil rig on top of it.

Leslie Shapiro, co-chairman of the museum's board of directors, was quoted in The Washington Post after the museum abruptly called off the exhition as saying: 'This is not what we were bargaining for. We thought we were getting functional furniture.'

Shapiro and Sean Duffey, a member of the board, denied that the political content of the Bush painting was the reason why the institution cancelled 'Funky Furniture'.

'I don't think I was judging it on that basis,' Shapiro told the local media.

Duffey said: 'What we are not is an art gallery. There are probably places this (painting) should go. It was not consistent with the mission of the museum.'

However, the Post reported today that the multi-million dollar ' $3.7 million of which came from the US Congress ' museum will altogether close down next spring.

Instead, its attractive space in the heart of the capital would be rented out for parties and dinners.

Meanwhile, Jim Tretick, a member of the executive committee of Art--Matic, a volunteer organisation of local artists which was putting together the exhibition, said he was looking for a new venue and that the works would remain intact till a new place is found.

Other controversial exhibits which contributed to cancellation of the show included a church pew with pictures and quotes implying that the late President Ronald Reagan was indifferent to the threat of AIDS.

One exhibit taking a dig at Democrats depicted a table plastered with drug paraphernalia and a quote from former Washington mayor Marion Barry, who was sentenced some years ago while in office for drug offences.

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