A Copenhagen gallery has withdrawn from exhibition a number of artworks by controversial Swedish artist Dan Park, after the gallery owner received death threats against himself and his family. The exhibition, which had been organised by the Danish Free Press Society, is to be moved to another gallery in the city, the location of which has not yet been revealed, according to The Local.
Dan Park gained notoriety in August of this year when he was sentenced to six months in jail for his artwork and ordered to pay 60,000 krona (£5,400) in damages to four people depicted within his work. The collage style images include black people with a noose around their necks, and Roma community leaders next to text suggesting that they condone crime. Another piece depicts Hitler along with the text “Not only n****** have dreams”.
Park defended the images as satire and invoked his right to freedom of speech, but the Swedish court disagreed, finding him guilty of defamation and inciting hatred against ethnic groups. The court also ordered nine of his pieces, which had been exhibited in Malmo, to be destroyed, and handed the owner of the gallery a 7,500 krona (£656) fine. Since then, a debate has raged in Denmark around his conviction, and a number of exhibitions of his work in Copenhagen have been planned.
Most recently the Danish Free Press Society have been attempting to publically display the nine artworks that led to Park’s conviction. They had found a home for the exhibition at the gallery of Danish artist Kristian von Hornsleth, but he has now withdrawn from the event following death threats, which come just one week after his gallery was vandalised.
Von Hornsleth wrote to the Free Press Society, saying “I unfortunately need to withdraw from the Dan Park exhibition due to death threats that concern myself and my family.
“One thing is to have my gallery smashed up last week, but after receiving a series of direct death threats I must now admit that this is no longer about art but rather has become a serious political and societal issue. I am very shocked and find it deeply regrettable to have to cave in to threats of violence.”
The Society’s chairman, Katrine Winkel Holm released a statement on the matter, saying “I didn’t realise that freedom of expression is so weak in Denmark that one must endure death threats just because they are prepared to host a peaceful and informative exhibition.
“It would be a colossal defeat for the freedom of speech if violent criminals are able to stop the show. We can’t allow that, so we look forward to giving everyone the opportunity to see Dan Park’s forbidden pictures.”
This is the second time that a planned exhibition of Park’s artwork has been cancelled in recent months. In September, Danish radio station Radio24syv announced a “happening” at which 31 of his artworks, including the nine set to be destroyed, were to be exhibited in another Copenhagen gallery. However, the plans came under heavy fire from various commentators, forcing the radio station to drop the idea.
“We found it interesting that a long line of well-known Danish debaters threw themselves into the debate on the necessity of displaying pieces without having seen them. But given the recent debate about our initiative, we must unfortunately conclude that the exhibition cannot go forward,” Radio24syv wrote in a press release.
When Radio24syv dropped its plans, the Free Press Society took up the baton. “It was a very important case that Radio24syv brought up and it is all too important to drop now. Dan Park is still in jail and there are still only a few people who are able to see the art that put him behind bars. We want to change that,” said Winkel Holm at the time.
At the time of his arrest, Park told The Local “Was I surprised to be charged? Yes and no. I think it is a waste of tax payers’ money mainly. It wasn’t a big deal. And no one should be able to tell me what kind of art I can create.”