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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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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

33 replies on “No, Leaked Nude Celebrity Photos Are Not Art [UPDATED]”

  1. “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.”
    ^ Agreed. The “artist” is an opportunist. Probably hoping for the scandal and controversy to gain some fame…. the art world equivalent of ambulance chasing.

    1. Though on the plus side, the artists who vandalized art works (like the Picasso in Houston and the Rothko in London) never really made careers out of their stunts. Here’s to hoping that is true here too.

  2. Local to the area and most all of the scene here is collectively ashamed of the place. Also like most here, I’ve seen the building but never been to a show if they’ve ever had one. The gallery is as bizarre here as it is everywhere else. The show premise is clearly nonsense – misogyny badly disguised as conceptual posturing. You can’t have a serious discussion on privacy by violating it.

  3. I don’t get it, why is this considered misogynistic? When this happened to Carlos Danger we all had a good laugh, but because women are on the receiving end this time it’s sexist? Stop treating women like children who need special attention.

      1. It does bring up the troubling question, why do we keep saying these women’s photos were ‘leaked’ when they were stolen? Carlos Danger’s photos were leaked, not stolen. Am I making a pointless distinction?

      2. I don’t see where the misogyny enters the dialogue through this hacking angle. The suggestion here seems to be that the motivation from the hacker was based purely on his hatred of women which is a bit ridiculous. Misogyny is a very serious label, but here it essentially means: male perpetrator + female victim = misogyny, which is hyperbolic. If the hacker turned out to be asian would this also make it an act of racism? There were a number of nude pictures of Justin Verlander included in this set, a few of which were solo shots of his penis, which sort of contradicts the misogyny theory.

        Personally I see this as an act of two specific traits that the digital age has inflated, an obsession with celebrity and an obsession with pornography. Both of which Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian have built careers on. If the victims had all been associated with openly feminist political views, or were even feminist writers themselves then I could understand why this would be labeled as an act of misogyny, as is I think the term is being used as a buzzword for clickbait.

        Also, Hrag the author doesn’t need you to defend her, she’s an adult not some child who needs her white male savior to speak for her. This interjection by you seems to be an act of misogyny.
        It’s easy to spin these things, isn’t it?

        1. First, I don’t identity as white, so thanks for asking. Also, she’s traveling and I also have an opinion of the matter and moderate the comments so I always make clarifications. Guess you’re new here.

        2. It’s misogynistic because the use/reshowing of these photos perpetuates the spirit of the act of stealing and leaking them, which is that women are objects to be desired and viewed by men, that they don’t have a right to the privacy of their own bodies. That, to me, counts as misogyny. I thought very carefully about that word choice, and I don’t believe it to be hyperbolic.

      3. It is the socially conditioned moral code that we have about women’s bodies and their relationship to private property that is exploitative. That they shouldn’t have any of these Bacchian revels under their belt if they are to eventually promise themselves to a husband. This should call for an intervention on sexual taboo but instead it has become a discussion about privacy which only reasserts the tension and violence of private property. Instead of saying, “oh she’s a slut -but no one should know that!”, why not say “She is a human being and this is a enormous chapter in the experience of existence as a human being.

  4. The photos are property of the person who took them. I’m assuming the Actresses. So the show is actually a Huge Copyright Violation! There is real teeth to copyright laws in the US for damages. I say the Ladies should sue that place into the ground. This kind of thing won’t be taken seriously till someone is broke. Money talks.

    1. Money talks? So you think that the independent art space -in St. Petersburg, Florida- is deciding to put on the show for profit? If so, do you believe that they will make more money than hyperallergic or any other form of media who are simultaneously profiting from the scandal?

  5. This is not art it is theft and abuse. (just a side note. It wasn’t a breach of Apple’s
    security. In his first interview on the subject, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said celebrities’ iCloud accounts were compromised when hackers correctly answered security questions to
    obtain their passwords, or when they were victimized by a phishing scam to
    obtain user IDs and passwords. He said none of the Apple IDs and passwords
    leaked from the company’s servers

  6. Its fascinating—and hopeful in a modest way—that the discussion that followed Jillian’s piece was all about the context of the event and not the taboo criticism leveled at the piece itself. Here we have a critic asserting that a set of pictures presented to the world as art do not qualify as art. How refreshing.

  7. Curse words like fuck and bullshit are appropriate tools in the war of mind control. Everytime your speech is censored, and you allow it, you are stepping into the mind control trap. Always use vulgar language to express yourself whenever you feel it is appropriate.

  8. If it’s just straight blow up the existing images and printing them out then the artist is infringing the copyright of the photographer. If there manipulating the image and then displaying their own take in the photos then it’s subjective as to wether or not it’s art. Richard Prince is an excellent example of this, and copyright law is pretty clear about these matters.

  9. Well, under our standard guideline, THE UTILITARIAN RULE, these photos most definitely are art. But that does not mean they are good art. Maybe the more interesting question is: Are they good or bad art.

    Art = Anything made by people with no utility

  10. In this issue of HYPERALLERGIC there is an article, it is titled, “Early 20th Century kite Cameras, the pre drones”.
    It is a fascinating article with many pics (no breasts or penises) of San Francisco after the big earthquake, a photo of Brooklyn. and a few others. This is something worth looking at and reading.
    It’s a hell of a lot more interesting than seeing a photo of a nude movie star and if that titillates (no pun intended) you, you’re one immature asshole!

  11. Excuse me but really? What ever your opinion is of Leaked or stolen, if you are posting nude pictures of yourself to the cloud, you sadly have no idea of the vulnerability of that data. I personally think nude pics of celebrities is not art no matter how you spin it. But if you want privacy, be private and don’t post your nude photos where they are easily stolen.

  12. The Utilitarian Rule of Art is the only objective definition of art I know of. It says that anything made by people with no utility is art. It does not offer advice if the art is good art or bad art.
    I think the rule qualifies the photographs are art. Especially in their gallery exhibit context.
    but the better question is: Are intimate, embarrassing photographs, displayed against the wish of the subject, solely for the purpose of provocation and financial gain, good art? Not likely. What we are left with is lame art by a lame gallery for a lame audience.

  13. I suspect it was cancelled not just “in response to public outrage” and certainly not because of a sudden “discovery of empathy” by the artist, but because some of the actresses have vowed to sue everyone who reposts those photos.

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