Winnie the Pooh Bloodied, Cuffed Museum Exhibit Sparks Police Outrage

A controversial painting at the Cincinnati Art Museum has sparked outrage as law enforcement has requested the painting be removed from its exhibit.

The painting in question is a part of a larger exhibition titled Black & Brown Faces: Paying Homage To. The artwork is a second exhibition organized by Paloozanoire, an organization that focuses on "enriching the lives of people of color throughout the Midwest in the areas of creativity, corporate leadership, and entrepreneurship."

The controversial painting depicts the characters Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, and Eeyore. In the painting, Winnie the Pooh is handcuffed and lying on the ground in what appears to be a pool of blood. Piglet is depicted behind him dressed as a police officer, pointing a gun directly at Pooh. In addition, Tigger stands in front of Winnie the Pooh holding a sign that says, "Off the pig."

Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Dan Hils told WLWT: "It absolutely is mind-blowing to me that we're there. That we're there in society, that that can be seen as artwork. It makes no sense."

The Toy Fair
A painting with the Winnie the Pooh bloodied and handcuffed with Piglet in cop-attire has outraged law enforcement in Cincinnati. The photo above shows a Winnie the Pooh wooden skittles set by Orange Tree Toys on display during the Toy Fair at Olympia London on January 21, 2020. John Keeble/Getty Images

Hils said that despite his belief in the freedom of speech, he asked the museum to remove the artwork.

"I'm taking advantage of my freedom of speech and saying take that down," he said.

Hils said that the painting is "saying cops are murderers, which I know that is a total fabrication and a total lie." He added that Tigger's message with the sign is "suggesting cops be killed. Now I'm getting angry again. That to me is unbelievable."

On the museum's website, the exhibit's description says: "This exhibition pairs 15 Midwestern artists of color with 15 living honorees in our community" and will be on display until June 19, 2022.

The Cincinnati Art Museum released a statement on Wednesday regarding the backlash.

"Paloozanoire intended for this exhibition to bring the community together through conversations about challenging topics. This partnership supports Cincinnati Art Museum's mission as an institution: Through the power of art, we contribute to a more vibrant Cincinnati by inspiring its people and connecting our communities."

"We fundamentally oppose any violence against police or community members. We believe that free expression is foundational in dialogues and community partnership," the statement continued.

Hils told Newsweek: "That painting was made to divide. Any conversation that starts is a divisive conversation, and it serves no other purpose...I think there's something hurting deep in our soul...There's little signs everywhere. And that was a little sign, that somebody could hang such a disgusting thing, and nobody really take exception of it.

"I would like it if the art museum takes it down. I don't want the state, aka the police, to take it down out of authority to take it down, I want reasonable thinking people to reconsider and take it down."

WLWT reported that they also interviewed the artist of the piece, Columbus-based Magnus Juliano. According to the news outlet, Juliano dressed up in a pig costume over Zoom.

"I want people to take away what they want to," Juliano said about the painting. "Humanity is a joke right now if we're more upset over a painting than police brutality. Black people being hurt."

Winnie the Pooh has been used as a figure to depict political and social justice messages before. The bear has been depicted as a symbol of resistance among those who oppose the ruling Communist Party in China, resulting in President Xi Jinping banning the film Christopher Robin from being released in China in 2018.

In 2014, Tuszyn, a town in central Poland, banned Winnie the Pooh from becoming a playground icon due to the bear's improper attire and "dubious sexuality."

More recently, a new horror film titled Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey has excited horror film fanatics and some reports say the film will be released later this year, although there is no confirmed release date at this time.

Newsweek reached out to the Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police and the Cincinnati Art Museum for additional comment.

Update 5/26/22, 4:28 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional comments.