“The Fear of Art”

“The Fear of Art”

Vera List Center for Art and Politics

Ai Weiwei, 2015. Photo: Ai Weiwei. Image courtesy of the Vera List
Center and the Center for Public Scholarship.

February 5, 2015
“The Fear of Art”

32nd Social Research Conference
February 12–13, 2015

Keynote: February 12, 6–7:30pm
Ai Weiwei (via video)

The New School
12th Street Auditorium
66 West 12th Street
New York City


Admission free; please reserve tickets here.


Freedom of expression remains under threat in both totalitarian and democratic states. Artists continue to be imprisoned and exiled and art continues to be banned and destroyed, all of which gives evidence of the power of images to unsettle, to speak truth to power, to question our cherished cultural norms and what we hold “sacred.”

Co-sponsored by the Vera List Center and presented by the Center for Public Scholarship, “The Fear of Art” conference examines how art can threaten, terrify, and provoke the wrath of political, religious, and cultural regimes. Speakers examine the history of art censorship, the role of artists as collaborators and rebels, and the self-censorship of gallery and museum directors. The agenda also pairs artists and scholars to discuss activist art, the threat posed by art, the potency of art, artists at risk, and artists in exile.

The conference is launched with a panel addressing the attack on Charlie Hebdo, entitled “‘Fear of Art’ Enacted.” Ai Weiwei is delivering the keynote address with a video he has created especially for the conference, The Censorship of Artists: Artists in Prison, Artists in Exile.

For more information on the conference, please visit our website.



Thursday, February 12

Session 1: Attack on Charlie Hebdo, “‘Fear of Art’ Enacted”
With Ben Katchor (Parsons), Nikahang Kowsar, Alexandra Zsigmond (The New York Times) and Victor S. Navasky (The Nation) as moderator

Session 2: “Reflections on Art Censorship and Banning”
With Emily Braun (Hunter), David Freedberg (Columbia), Olaf Peters (Martin Luther University),and Agnes Gund as moderator

Session 3: “Activist Art”
With Ricardo Dominguez (the Electronic Disturbance Theater), Stephen Duncombe (NYU), and Suzanne Nossel (PEN American Center) as moderator

Session 4: “The Potency of Art”
With Holland Cotter (The New York Times), Paul Chan, and Carin Kuoni (Vera List Center for Art and Politics) as moderator

Keynote address
Ai Weiwei: Censorship of Artists: Artists in Prison, Artists in Exile
Followed by panel with Melissa Chiu (Hirshhorn Museum), Ethan Cohen (Ethan Cohen Fine Arts) and Minky Worden (Human Rights Watch)

Friday, February 13

Tour of site-specific works from the New School Art Collection
With Silvia Rocciolo (New School)

Session 6: “Artists at Risk/Artists in Exile”
With Chaw Ei Thein and Naila Al Atrash

Session 7: “Censorship and Self-Exile”
With Shirin Neshat, Jack Persekian (The Palestine Museum), and László Jakab Orsós (Pen America) as moderator

Session 8: “Who Does the Policing? What Is the Role of Self-Censorship?”
With Jeffrey Deitch, Boris Groys (NYU), Jack Persekian (The Palestine Museum), Lisa Phillips (The New Museum) and Svetlana Mintcheva (National Coalition Against Censorship)


The conference is presented by The Center for Public Scholarship, co-sponsored by the Vera List Center for Art and PoliticsPEN American Center, and the India China Institute at The New School. The conference is made possible with generous support from Agnes Gund, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Larry Warsh, the Ford Foundation, and ArteEast.

RSVP for “The Fear of Art”
Vera List Center for Art and Politics
February 5, 2015

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