Golf + art = controversy

The "Adventureland Golf" exhibit
The "Adventureland Golf" exhibit in Blackpool, England, has provoked a variety of reactions.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 | 8:40 p.m.

The northwestern part of England hosted the British Open in July, with Ernie Els winning at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Just up the road from Lytham is the coastal resort town of Blackpool, where golf is again making headlines. This time, though, it’s for an unusual art exhibit at the Grundy Art Gallery.

Called “Adventureland Golf,” the exhibit is essentially a miniature golf course where some of the nine holes contain what the Grundy Gallery calls “cheeky and fun challenges,” while other holes make statements on politics, life and death.

The first hole contains signs by British artist David Shrigley that say things like “Respect Your Opponent” and “Golf Isn’t Boring.” The final hole features black mausoleum-like slabs, which artists Zatorski and Zatorski say means that you’ve realized your final challenge and your game is over.

In between is a hole with a playful, multi-eyed green monster from artist Pete Fowler, while another has a desert island from Brian Griffiths and another contains a boarded-up library that artist Jonathan Allen says represents the loss of cultural services because of the austerity measures that Britain and other European nations are now undertaking.

The hole attracting the most attention, though, features a likeness of Adolph Hitler – hit your ball through Hitler, and he raises his right arm in a salute. Artists Jake and Dinos Chapman created the hole as a juxtaposition of the Nazi regime that terrorized Britain within the context of holiday fun, says the Grundy Gallery, and in doing so references the British wartime spirit of making humor at Hitler’s expense.

Not everyone seems to appreciate the artists’ vision, however. Michael Samuels of the Board of Deputies of British Jews has condemned the piece, according to The Guardian newspaper of nearby Manchester, and declaring that it has "absolutely no artistic value whatsoever."

Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones wonders exactly when an image of Hitler becomes offensive.

“Hitler as a crazy golf statue apparently offends. But what about Basil Fawlty (of the TV show ‘Fawlty Towers’) doing his funny walk, Mel Brooks' Hitler musical in ‘The Producers’ or the bizarrely characterful portrayal of Hitler in the film ‘Downfall’?,” he asks. “Why should the Blackpool Hitler be seen as an outrage too far, when this vicious mass murderer is such a familiar, even comic image in our culture?”

That’s a judgment for each individual museumgoer to make. As for me, I have the sudden urge to go play Putt-Putt – but I think I’ll stick to windmills and loop-de-loops.