The work, by New Orleans-based artist Ti-Rock Moore, a white woman, has also been called “disgusting and disturbing” by Brown’s father, Michael Brown Senior, who claims not to have been consulted about the sculpture.
The artwork is one of 50 pieces on show in the exhibition, called Confronting Truths: Wake Up!, at Gallery Guichard in Chicago.
Moore has said the work represents “white privilege in America and how it negatively affects the black community now and has for generations”.
Other pieces in the exhibition include a large white canvas reading "White privilege, the last outpost of psychological oblivion", a neon sign spelling out "Strange Fruit", a reference to Billie Holiday's song about racist lynchings, and a Confederate flag emblazoned with the names of the nine victims of the Charleston masscare.
But Moore's decision to create a replica of Brown’s corpse has led to accusations that the artist has wrongly appropriated “black bodies”.
Writing in African-American culture magazine The Root, Kirsten West Savali said Moore’s artwork is a “working definition of white privilege”.
“White artists believe they can claim artistic ownership of black death, while disowning their white guilt and being applauded for their ‘courageousness’,” she wrote.
Brown Senior has also criticised the artist for not seeking his permission about the work, which Moore has said was the result of miscommunication.
“I have no problem with the person that created it, but I think they should have reached out to both sides of the family,” he told Fox News.
“I really would like for them to take that away. I think it’s really disturbing, disgusting. I keep that thought – that thought, that picture is still in my head.”
Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden attended the opening night of the exhibition, asking the gallery owners to cover up the piece about her late son. It is one of the few art works on show that is not for sale.
Banned, censored and 'offensive' artworks
Banned, censored and 'offensive' artworks
1/8 'My Bed' - Tracey Emin
Emin, one of the Young British Artists, created arguably her most iconic and controversial piece of art with 'My Bed'. It was short-listed for the 1999 Tuner Prize but sparked public outrage and a media furore. Emin's own bed is displayed here, surrounded by evidence of her sexual, self-destructive exploits. Stained sheets, fag butts, empty beer bottles, condom and worn underwear can all be seen in this image of suicidal depression following a major break-up.
2/8 'Christ You Know It Ain't Easy' - Sarah Lucas
This 3D piece by English artist and Tracey Emin contemporary Sarah Lucas is made from cigarette butts and depicts Christ being crucified on the cross of the English flag. It is thought to be a comment on the difficulty of quitting smoking. Lucas took up the habit aged 9. Much of her work is designed to be shocking and provocative - someone is always offended.
3/8 'Fountain' - Marcel Duchamp
This scandalous porcelain urinal, signed R.Mutt, was rejected by the Society of Independent Artists in 1917 even though the rules stated that any submission would be accepted from artists who paid the fee. Pictured here is a replica of the 1917 piece. The original is believed lost. 'Fountain' is an example of Duchamp's revolutionary 'readymades' - ordinary manufactured objects designated by the artist as art.
4/8 'The Holy Virgin Mary' - Chris Ofili
The provocative Sensation exhibit at the Brooklyn Art Museum in 1999 caused great offence. Nigerian artist Ofili's depiction of an African Madonna surrounded by black bottoms and elephant poo was called 'anti-Catholic' and 'horrible' by New York's mayor at the time. So 'horrible' that Rudy Giuliani filed a lawsuit against the museum.
5/8 'Immersion Piss Christ' - Andres Serrano
Two Catholic activists partially destroyed US artist Serrano's artwork while it was on display in the south of France. Created in 1987, it represents a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's own urine.
6/8 'Western-Christian Civilization' - Leon Ferrari
Argentine conceptual artist Ferrari often dealt with power and religion in his work, using images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary with cages, frying pans and even meat blenders. Showing Christ crucified on a fighter plane, 'Western-Christian Civilization' was a protest work against the Vietnam War. Governments were constantly battling against Ferrari - he was exiled from Brazil and a 2004 exhibition of his work was temporarily forced to close when Pope Francis intervened.
7/8 'Bacchante and Infant Faun' - Frederick William MacMonnies
This bronze statue caused an uproar in 1854 when an architect tried to erect it in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library. Modern viewers will see little to get het up about but the nude Roman wine deity's 'drunken indecency' offended the Women's Christian Temperance Union. It was taken down to the more liberal New York instead and is now exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. MacMonnies earned worldwide fame as a result.
8/8 'Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain' - Damien Hirst
No stranger to controversy, Hirst's original sculpture had no fig leaf to protect his modesty. The artist added the extra detail to prevent issues with Chinese collectors and left it in when the sculpture was displayed in Qatar. Nudity can offend Islamic culture, particularly in places where the general public has not been exposed to contemporary art.
Moore has responded to comments about the exhibition, defending her decision to create the artwork.
“Disturbing imagery has always been used in art-making to ignite meaningful conversation. I wanted to use his death to make a statement about the brutal realities of racism in this county,” she told The Huffington Post.
“I have unfortunately upset many in revisiting this tragedy, but I think the conversations that are surfacing because of it are worth noting and may help us move into a new direction.”
She added that she had written to both of Brown’s parents to seek permission before beginning the work and thought Brown Senior was on board after he agreed to fly to Chicago for the private view.
“I didn’t know that Mr Brown was not on board until the night of the opening, and that I do regret,” she said.
The gallery plans to donate 10 per cent of the money from artworks sold at the exhibition to a charity aimed at ending police violence.
“This [exhibition] is something that needs to stay alive because we need to do what Ti-Rock says and understand what white privilege does to the African American community,” the gallery’s co-owner Frances Guicard told The Guardian.Reuse content