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FEDERAL AGENTS INVESTIGATE ART WORK IN THE EXHIBITION SECRET WARS AT THE HOUSTON ART CAR MUSEUM
HOUSTON, TX -- Acting on a museum patron's anonymous tip that the work was threatening to President Bush, FBI and Secret Service agents paid a visit on the Art Car Museum to investigate artwork in the exhibition SECRET WARS, according to reports in the HOUSTON CHRONICLE and HOUSTON INDYMEDIA. In addition to examining the work, the agents asked questions, such as where did the museum get its funding.
The exhibition had been planned before the September 11 attacks -- with the idea of artists decorporatizing war in a way parallel to how they use mass produced automobiles to make art statements.
The agents determined the artwork was not dangerous, FBI spokesman Bob Dogium told the Chronicle, adding that after the terrorist attacks on September 11, at Attorney General Ashcroft's urging, law enforcement investigates all tips about apparent anti-American activities.
In an interview with docent Donna Huanca, a University of Houston art student who was working at the museum when the agents arrived, Houston IndyMedia quotes her as saying "It was a very scary experience to have them and show them text from the white house, press releases, the texts that are on the walls are not changed or made into anything that they are not, we took them straight from the CNN website.....they [the agents] looked particularly at a work [a painting by Lynn Randolph] "that has a fighter jet crash, and it is hanging off a tree with the Houston skyline burning and the composition focuses on the children, as they remain innocent victims in the middle of war, which was done during the gulf war, and it has George Bush senior in the belly of the beast and the devil is dancing around...."
The agents were also concerned that they were under surveillance because a component of the exhibition is a mock surveillance camera pointed at the gallery door. (The front door is visible on a monitor, but it isn't recorded)
The Chronicle quotes Jim Harithas, the museum's founder and director and director of Houston's Contemporary Art Museum from 1974-79, as saying that the exhibit is not meant to be unpatriotic. Harithas pointed out that the current political climate appears to curb free speech, and that "Apparently now, any criticism of the president is subject to investigation."
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