Opinion

No, Leaked Nude Celebrity Photos Are Not Art [UPDATED]

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In a shameless bid for attention and relevance, and probably money, Cory Allen Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg, Florida, has announced that it will show leaked nude images of actress Jennifer Lawrence and supermodel Kate Upton as appropriated artworks by an LA artist who goes by the name of XVALA. (If the announcement and the show are real — it’s a little hard to tell with an entity which claims to be “the world’s first public relations gallery” and whose acronym is CACA.)

The artist says:

In today’s culture, everybody wants to know everything about everybody. An individual’s privacy has become everyone else’s business. It has become cash for cache.

The gallerist says:

The commentary behind this show is a reflection of who we are today. We all become ‘users’ and in the end, we become ‘used’.

I say: This is exploitative, opportunistic, misogynistic, voyeuristic nonsense masquerading as art. It’s also totally uninteresting. Art is what happens when you give form to a creative expression of some kind; furthering the assault on women’s bodies in this country is about the least creative thing I can imagine.

Ironically, these images are part of an ongoing “campaign” by XVALA titled Fear Google. As if Google were the 4chan user who hacked these women’s accounts and leaked their photos. Or the artist who chose to further violate these women’s privacy by taking the photos, blowing them up life-size, and printing them on canvas. Or the gallery that agreed to legitimize such hackery by putting them on view. There are many reasons to fear Google, but leaked celebrity photos is not one of them. (Especially since the whole ordeal seems to have been a breach of an Apple security system.)

Perhaps, in the spirit of the hacker who leaked the photos in the first place, someone should hack the Corey Allan Contemporary Art website and replace the press release with cultural critic Roxane Gay’s excellent piece in the Guardian about the photo leak, which includes this powerful passage:

The Great Celebrity Naked Photo Leak of 2014 … is meant to remind women of their place. Don’t get too high and mighty, ladies. Don’t step out of line. Don’t do anything to upset or disappoint men who feel entitled to your time, bodies, affection or attention. Your bared body can always be used as a weapon against you. Your bared body can always be used to shame and humiliate you. Your bared body is at once desired and loathed.

Then, instead of having to read bullshit art PR, visitors would at least be seeing something closer to the truth.

Update, 9/9, 4:45pm ET: Per a new press release from Corey Allen Contemporary Art, XVALA has canceled plans to exhibit the leaked photos of Lawrence and Upton, replacing them with a display showing “the collective response to the hacked images” and “the artist’s self-shot, life-size, nude images.” The move apparently comes in response to public outrage about the show as well as the artist’s discovery of empathy.

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