A controversial new art exhibit at the Guggenheim that staged two pit bulls about to fight each other was funded by the taxpayers.
The new show "Art and China After 1989," which opens Oct. 6, received a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities during the last year of the Obama administration.
The New York Times reports the exhibit is causing controversy even before it opens for its video depiction of the mock dogfight.
"Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other" was filmed in 2003 during a museum exhibit in Beijing and features two aggressive pit bulls constrained on treadmills facing each other only several inches apart.
The Guggenheim is defending the exhibit as "intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control."
"The work is a seven-minute video of a performance that was staged at a museum in Beijing in 2003, during which dogs were placed on non-motorized treadmills facing one another and prevented from making contact," the museum said in a statement. "Contrary to some reports, no fighting occurred in the original performance and the presentation at the Guggenheim is in video format only; it is not a live event."
"We recognize that the work may be upsetting," the museum said. "The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share."
Other pieces of "experimental art" by the exhibit's creators Sun Yuan and Peng Yu include "live insects and reptiles scurrying under an overhead lamp," the Times reports.
"In 2000, their transfused blood was injected into the corpse of conjoined babies in the performance piece ‘Body Link,'" according to the Times.
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu are "two of China's most controversial artists, renown for working with extreme materials such as human fat tissue, live animals, and baby cadavers to deal with issues of perception, death, and the human condition."
Another past work, "Old Persons Home," featured a number of geriatric men dressed up as world leaders who staged a slow-motion bumper cars battle in wheelchairs.
The Guggenheim received a $300,000 grant from the NEH for "Art and China After 1989" in March 2016.
The museum has $175 million in total assets, according to an oversight report on highly financed museums that still receive taxpayer funding released by OpenTheBooks.com earlier this year.