Coinciding with Frieze London, Sensitive Content is an international group exhibition curated by the artist Helen Beard and art historians Alayo Akinkugbe and Maria Elena Buszek. The exhibition gives voice to those who have been systematically marginalised, showcasing works that have often been censored.
Censorship has been a longstanding source of contention throughout the history of art, being the most persistent form of violation to artistic freedom of expression. Museums, governments, and corporations have reserved the right to censor artworks for centuries on the grounds that these works are offensive to the public, that they upset the established status quo and systems of convention. Today, visual art is frequently in the firing line of social media’s sensitivity filters. The exhibition seeks to uncover ways in which these restrictions are encouraging our society to regress to a sanitised art culture, but also the courageous, creative methods by which artists are pushing back.
From the British government’s destruction of Penny Slinger’s books to Renee Cox’s showdown with New York’s then-mayor Rudolf Giuliani over religious imagery; Betty Tompkins’ massive paintings seized by French Customs for obscenity to Xiao Lu’s poetic allegories of censorship itself made under the watchful eye of the Chinese authorities, the artists in Sensitive Content confront censorship in the political realm. The exhibition also addresses more recent, everyday examples of censorship in social media, where the feminist, queer, and anti-racist work of artists like Polly Borland, and Emma Shapiro is frequently flagged, removed, and banned by overzealous artificial intelligence filters and undercooked “sexual solicitation” laws alike.
This exhibition for Unit London will coincide with Frieze London, and will be accompanied by a catalogue, panel, and other events during that week pertaining to the show.