John Nikolai art show aborted after ZuZu removes eight pieces

Less than a week after Providence photographer John E. Coli Nikolai unveiled his final Boston-area solo exhibition for a good long time, he’s already taking the show down after the ZuZu removed eight pieces of artwork that staff, management and clientele found potentially offensive or inappropriate.

Two or three days after the show’s August 6th opening reception, Nikolai stopped in to check up on the show and found that one piece had been removed. (Called “Snatching A Glance,” it consisted of a prosthetic vagina with a glass eyeball peering out of it, presented in a shadowbox and framed in crotchless panties.)

Nikolai was told that, the day before, a diner in the bar/restaurant/club had complained that the work was offensive and it was taken down. He promptly hung it back it up.

But when he walked into the venue on Saturday, he found that piece and 7 others had been removed, including “Feeling Lucky?”, which depicts a giant rabbit about to saw the foot off of nude model Alison Little; an untitled black and white photo of a topless woman holding a mask up to her face; and “53rd & 3rd,” in which a topless woman at the NYC street corner immortalized in the Ramones song.

“I knew right away that I was going to take the entire show down because what remained is not the show that I hung but a sadly diluted version of it that I don’t stand behind and that I won’t stand for,” Nikolai says in an e-mail. “I understand that ZuZu is a respectable establishment [but] it’s a matter of respect — self respect, respect for my own work and respect and support for my model, Alison Little, who has been completely removed from the exhibit by ZuZu — that I’m taking what’s left of the show down and getting everything out of there as soon as I possibly can.”

"As it was explained to me, John Nikolai has had shows here at Zuzu in the past without any problems,” says Kevin Hoskins, talent buyer and booking agent at the Middle East. “When the new exhibit went up, a few customers including a couple families complained. As The Middle East is both an artist-friendly venue and a family establishment, Mr. Nikolai was asked to take some of the more explicit pieces in the exhibit.”

Starting with the group show HUNG which he first curated in Cambridge in 2005,  several of Nikolai’s shows have suffered from censorship of content by the venue hosting the show. Club Passim wouldn’t allow Cynthia Plaster Caster’s plaster cast of Jimi Hendrix’s penis to appear in the HUNG exhibit, though they did allow it to appear at the opening. When HUNG moved to CBGB as that club’s final anniversary art show at the turn of 2006, club owner Hilly Kristal told Nikolai that some of the artwork was inappropriate and it was removed.

“I’m getting used to this happening but I don’t like it. If I hadn’t already planned on this being my final solo show in Boston for many years ahead, this would have been the final nail in the coffin,” Nikolai writes, noting that ZuZu asked him if he’d be replacing the removed artwork. “Why would I do that? The show was called ‘Ask Your Mom How Much I Rock,’ not ‘Ask Your Mom How Much I’ll Compromise What I Do So That No One Might Be Offended.’”

Nikolai has already had found another home for the banished pieces. He’ll be moving some of the work to the JP Art Market in Jamaica Plain until the end of August, where it will join a group show in progress. Once he takes it down from there, has no plans to show in Cambridge again.

| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Phlog Archives