Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who named the panel's 20 members Tuesday, said he had hoped they could issue a report on decency standards within three months, but they said it would likely take longer. Giuliani, a Republican, has nine months left in office. "It is certainly appropriate for this advisory group to take a look at what standards, if any, should be applied, (given that) the city of New York currently provides $115 million in annual operating funding to cultural institutions,'' Giuliani said.
The panel was created after Giuliani became incensed two months ago by a photograph at the city-funded Brooklyn Museum of Art. The 5-foot-tall photo, called "Yo Mama's Last Supper,'' shows a nude, black woman portraying Jesus surrounded by disciples. Giuliani called the work "disgusting'' and "anti-Catholic.''
The mayor used similar language in 1999 to denounce another artwork at the Brooklyn Museum: a painting of the Virgin Mary dappled with elephant dung. Giuliani halted city funding of the museum, but a federal court later ordered the city to resume it.
Among the new panel's members are Leonard Garment, 75, who is to head a subcommittee to decide how to deal with art deemed offensive. In 1990, Garment co-chaired the federal Independent Commission on the National Endowment for the Arts when that group was under attack by conservative senators for funding art they found indecent. The commission voted to oppose restrictions on the content of art the agency could fund.
On Tuesday, Sliwa--who at 47 is one of the younger commission members--acknowledged that he knew little about art but believes he can contribute. "I know the difference between a Michelob and a Michelangelo'' said Sliwa, who wore his trademark red beret and satin jacket. "I think I can be as fair as anyone making those determinations.''
Other members include Giuliani's attorney, Raoul Felder, and Alfred Curtis Jr., president of the United Nations Development Corp., as well as a rabbi, a bishop and an imam, a humanities professor and a free-lance news producer. The artist Peter Max declined to join after other artists criticized the panel and several news organizations reported that Max had been convicted of income tax evasion.