The irony, apparently, is lost on them. “Munch in his lifetime was a very controversial figure and his work was very badly received when he was alive,” points out Melgaard, correctly. “People were very disgusted by his work. So, it was weird that people thought that my show disgraced Munch.” Melgaard indeed has two obvious affinities with now-revered artist: both of them channel an underlying nihilism and use graphic depictions of sex. Why, then, does Melgaard think there has been a backlash? “It’s very homophobic. I don’t think a show with those sexually charged images or motives or contents would be received the same way if it was a straight artist. Homosexuality is repressed all over the world.”
If that is the case, then Melgaard has done more than his fair share of undoing such repression. His oeuvre to date has been like a volcanic eruption of exposition—not just about homoeroticism, but sexuality, race and power. His first New York show, in 2000, included bronze sculptures of apes aggressively having sex, another included two live tigers, while he installed a psychedelic dungeon of hedonism at last year’s Whitney Biennial. That’s even before mentioning the orgiastic, drug den dollhouses he created for Luxembourg & Dayan, or a fabled project called AIDS Roulette, for which he supposedly gathered together six gay men—one HIV positive—and then randomly selected one to have unprotected intercourse with.