In what appears to be an instance of serial miscommunication, an exhibition in The Inquirer's public room was removed Monday, largely because some editors and managers thought the exhibit was a joke and others were offended by the subject matter.
In fact, the exhibit was part of Hidden City, a monthlong arts festival unfolding in historic spaces across Philadelphia, including the Inquirer and Daily News Building on North Broad Street.
Last night, Ed Mahlman, Philadelphia Newspapers' vice president of marketing, said the company had decided to move the exhibit to another venue while still fulfilling its commitment to promote the show.
"We are talking to our partner Hidden City about finding an alternative venue," Mahlman said. He said the company wanted to respect the feelings of some employees who took offense at some of the material and to fulfill its contractual obligations with Peregrine Arts, producer of Hidden City.
The new location is still being discussed, Mahlman said.
Thaddeus A. Squire, Peregrine's artistic executive director, could not be reached last night. In an earlier interview, he called the affair "somewhat a comedy of errors, but an interesting one nonetheless."
The exhibit, "Newsroom 2009," by Aleksandra Mir, consists of eight collaged section-front pages of the paper, each with the Inquirer logo and filled with material culled from the paper's archives.
To Trish Wilson, an assistant managing editor, the works - which contained provocative juxtapositions of type and photos involving women - were "strikingly inappropriate," particularly in a workplace. But since the exhibit panels were not identified in any way, Wilson said, she had no idea they were part of an art exhibition.
Nor did Brian P. Tierney, publisher of The Inquirer and chief executive of Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., or several other executives and editors who gathered Monday evening to celebrate the paper's anniversary in the public room. Tierney, thinking the work "a gag," suggested that it be removed after Wilson complained.
The artist, an avowed feminist, was in Italy yesterday and not available for comment. She has shown work all over the United States and Europe, and often has explored newspapers as shapers and embodiments of cultural memory.
"Newsroom 2009" focuses on women as presented in the pages of The Inquirer, often juxtaposing text and image in a jarring way: a photograph of female roller bladers wrapped around text describing women "power brokers"; a snippet of news about Nancy Pelosi next to a photograph of a bikini-clad woman.
Officials at Peregrine said they received permission to hang the works from the paper's marketing department. The public room, as Tierney pointed out, is often used as a gallery space by such institutions as Moore College of Art.
"We don't endorse the cause or create it," he said. "I don't know who the artist is. But I'm not going to be the one to censor this artist."
Both Tierney and Mahlman said removal of the works resulted from confusion as much as anything else. That confusion had some irreversible consequences: Faux news pages created by Mir and meant to be taken away by viewers were removed and apparently thrown away.