I almost got through the '90s without mentioning contemporary art controversies. You did not read anything here about Piss Christ and Elephant Dung Mary or the people who make their livelihood off the brouhaha over such images—religious "antidefamation" interests, lawyers, third-rate artists, and public officials who express outrage. But now I feel compelled to comment.

Here's why: The artist at the center of the most recent of these controversies has told us how to define the decade. Until now we had not known what the '90s were about. Mention the '20s or the '30s or the '60s and something comes to mind. But the '90s were a blank until Jef Bourgeau came along. He is an artist who is trying to be noticed—and succeeding in getting noticed—by having a big hand in a show that the Detroit Institute of Arts shut down after exhibiting it for only two days.


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