Disabled poster boy banned from rail stations

Marc Quinn, 'Stuart Penn,' 2000.

By our news staff

Not Normal, an art-exhibition focussed on the position of disabled people in society, which opened in Amsterdam on Wednesday has immediately sparked controversy.

The exhibition features pieces by 80 visual artists, whose work all evokes the same question: what constitutes normality? And who decides what is normal and what is not?

An answer to the latter question came more quickly than expected. The Dutch national railway company NS refuses to display posters advertising the event at its train stations. The poster in question features a nude sculpture British artist Marc Quinn made of Stuart Penn, a British stuntman and amputee.

The NS defended its decision citing fear of customer complaints. According to a spokesperson, the NS' stations should be “a pleasant place” for passengers. “We feel this poster is too confrontational and unfit for the public at large,” the spokesperson said.

“Apparently the NS feels disabled people are not normal,” Lieke Timmermans responded, speaking on behalf of the art exhibition. She accused the NS of hypocrisy, recalling earlier advertising campaigns at train stations she thought might also be considered an affront to the senses by some. One featured the bruised face of Dutch performing artist Anouk, another a Dutch folk singer flaunting his own line of undergarments.

According to Timmermans, the NS’ reaction to Quinn’s work proves the relevance of the exhibition. “This illustrates how important it is that artists take society’s pulse from time to time,” she said.

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