Another day, another protest at a museum. Not against labor conditions, the treatment of museum staff, or kimonos, however, but this time against Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the over-4,000 paintings the French painter executed over his lifetime, and their prominence in museums around the world.
Yesterday, as the Boston Globe reported, a small group of protestors congregated outside the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston armed with cheese pizza and signs that read, “Renoir Sucks at Painting,” “ReNOir,” and “God Hates Renoir.” The rally was organized by Max Geller, a Brooklyn resident who created the Instagram account @Renoir_sucks_at_painting, on which he posts paintings captioned with why he thinks the painter, well, sucks. The group is calling for the institution to remove its Renoirs from its walls — six are currently on view — and replace them with artists who don’t have “treacly oeuvres,” as Geller, who had traveled to Boston for the event, put it.
“We take a pretty agnostic approach to other art. But in the MFA, for example, every single painting is really beautiful except the Renoirs,” Geller told Hyperallergic when reached by phone. “There is a sort of universal saccharine, diabetic quality to all of Renoir’s works that you don’t see in other painters, especially other painters whom people regard as masters.”
Geller takes offense particularly with what he describes as “eyeballs that look like they were colored in with sharpies” and “cut-and-paste, lasso tool-backgrounds of rotting vegetation.” On the Instagram account, he’s blasted works from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Reclining Nude” (1883) to a rendering of a cat.
The Boston protestors also accused the MFA (along with other Renoir-displaying museums) of “aesthetic terrorism,” which Geller defines as “acts that harm the collective cultural wealth of everybody.”
“I think Renoir’s treacle has actual pernicious effects on society,” he explained. “I think you can draw a straight line from Renoir and the exaltation of Renoir by fine art museums to things like movie sequels and Thomas Kinkade.”
The members of the Renoir Sucks at Painting movement believe the MFA Boston is especially guilty of using its limited real estate on Renoir’s works when it possesses greater masterpieces that are kept hidden from the public in storage. Geller would ideally like to see the spaces occupied by works by “people who aren’t dead white men.”
Yesterday’s protest drew laughs from passersby, some of whom expressed solidarity with the movement — which has actually received snarky comments from Renoir’s great-granddaughter herself; for its part, the MFA Boston ignored the entire thing, likely occupied with much bigger and more important things, like preparing for its forthcoming Vermeer and Rembrandt exhibition.
“By the way, neither of those dudes suck at painting,” Geller noted.
The Renoir Sucks at Painting movement isn’t planning another protest at the MFA, but it will continue advocating its bold cause, which has been taking up by individuals in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and even Spain. Renoir-lovers could perhaps fight back with forcefully induced morphine injections.