Marta Minujin created this artwork as a symbol of artistry and freedom from censorship.
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The ancient Greeks built the Parthenon as a temple to Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
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Marie Mauzy/Scala, Florence/Art Resource
Minujin constructed a metal scaffold in the shape of the Parthenon.
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Minujin’s team used clear plastic so the public can view the cover of each banned book.
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Boris Roessler/dpa/Newscom
Building for Book Lovers
A contemporary artist uses her art to combat censorship

Alexandra Franklin | for Scholastic Art

This summer, contemporary artist Marta Minujin took a stand against censorship. When government officials engage in censorship, they restrict people from reading books or other materials that the government considers inappropriate. Minujin decided to construct a replica of Greece’s iconic Parthenon. But instead of using marble, she built it out of more than 100,000 books banned by governments around the world.

Symbolic History

For the ancient Greeks, the Parthenon was a symbol of the beauty and democracy of Athens. They dedicated the temple to the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena. The Parthenon remained in use for thousands of years, and its regal architecture served as a reminder that in a great civilization, free thinking and artistry go hand-in-hand.

To make her stand against censorship even stronger, Minujin erected the structure in Friedrichsplatz Park in Kassel, Germany. There, in a dramatic display of censorship, Nazi party members burned more than 2,000 banned books in 1933.

Making It Personal

Minujin is no stranger to speaking out against censorship through her art. A native of Buenos Aires, she experienced the political repression of Argentina’s dictatorship in the 1970s. Just one week after the dictatorship fell, in 1983, Minujin built a replica of the Parthenon in Buenos Aires, using 25,000 books banned by the Argentinian government. When the installation was complete, cranes tipped the structure over and the artist invited the public to take the books. “Democracy without books is not democracy,” says Minujin.

Building a Temple

The books included in Minujin’s recent installation came from a list of 170 titles that are currently banned or have previously been banned by governments around the world. The list includes classics such as Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and the books in the Harry Potter series. Minujin, along with students from Kassel University, compiled a list of banned books and then asked the public to donate copies for the project.

Minujin and her team built metal scaffolding in the shape of the Parthenon. They used sheets of clear plastic to attach more than 100,000 books to the frame. Lit from within, the structure is a luminous temple that rises symbolically against the world’s long history of censorship and political oppression.