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sample essay


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What Limits to Freedom?
Freedom of Expression and the Brooklyn Museum’s
“Sensation” Exhibit

by Melissa Davis

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Prof. K.D. Smith
Humanities 205
16 May 2009


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Davis 1
Melissa Davis
Professor Smith
Humanities 205
16 May 2009
and page
number in
top right

What Limits to Freedom?
Freedom of Expression and the Brooklyn Museum’s
“Sensation” Exhibit
For over a century public galleries in Western democracies have
been forums not only for displaying works by “old Masters” but also


for presenting art that is new, as well as ideas that are sometimes
radical and controversial. In the United States that tradition has
been under wide attack in the past generation. Various political and
first line
of all
religious leaders have criticized exhibits of works of art that they claim
indented offend against notions of public decency, and have crusaded against
providing public funding for the creation or display of such works.
The largest such controversy of the past generation was sparked by the
display of a painting entitled “The Holy Virgin Mary,” by the British
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artist Chris Ofili at the Brooklyn Museum in 1999. Though the
image appears inoffensive at a distance, the artist has affixed to the
painting cutouts of body parts from magazines, and has incorporated clumps of elephant dung into the piece, both below the main
body of the work as if supporting it and as part of the collage. The

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Davis 2
resulting uproar led both to a widely publicized court case and to an
ongoing campaign to support “decency” in artistic expression. Should
such art be banned? Should it be exhibited...

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