Deborah De Robertis performing “Ma chatte, mon copyright” at the Louve (© Deborah De Robertis, photo by Guillaume Belvèze)

PARIS — On October 18, as the rest of the art world in Paris ogled the art objects at the FIAC (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain) art fair’s grand opening, French-Luxembourg artist Deborah De Robertis was fighting in court. She had been charged with sexual exhibitionism and biting the jacket of a guard during the forceful stopping of her audacious happening “Ma chatte, mon copyright” (My Pussy, My Copyright) performed on September 24, without permission, in the “La Joconde” (Mona Lisa, c. 1506) room at the Louvre.

During the performance, De Robertis shouted through a megaphone, “Mona Lisa, my pussy, my copyright,” while revealing her vagina in front of the “Mona Lisa.”(In April, she had similarly exposed herself in front of the same painting, while a violinist played music, and was forced out of the museum.) For “Ma chatte, mon copyright,” she was held in jail for two days before a judge ordered her to stand trial this past Wednesday. 

De Robertis was acquitted of the sexual exhibitionism charge. It was understood she was solely practicing pungent performance art. Her sexual provocations question the place of women artists in art history and are part of a larger tradition of performance art, including that of Valie Export (whose “Action Pants: Genital Panic” (1969) piece inspired the “Ma chatte, mon copyright” performance), Carolee Schneemann, Annie Sprinkle, Orlan, Andrea Fraser, and Milo Moiré (who has also paid homage to Valie Export’s “Action Pants”). All these women artists step out of the passive stereotype of their gender representation.

De Robertis tells me that the Louvre has asked that the images of her performance be removed from the internet. This request, she thinks, shows that images of noisy disruption at the Louvre bother the museum’s administrators more than the exposing of pink female flesh.

For the biting of the jacket, De Robertis received 35 hours of public service work.

This is not the first time she has appeared in court because of her work. In February of this year, she was similarly acquitted for two nude performances at Paris museums, one at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, in which she mimicked a photo of Monica Bellucci, and the other at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, in which she protested an exhibition on the Barbie doll.

De Robertis’s “Ma chatte, mon copyright” performance also follows her pink masterpiece (so far): the conceptually focused feminist performance “Mirror of Origin” (2014) where she exposed her genitals seated on the floor in front of Gustave Courbet’s “L’Origine du monde” (The Origin of the World, 1866) at the Musée d’Orsay, mimicking the painting’s exposure of the genitals of a woman. She was arrested for that performance as well.

Deborah De Robertis, “Miroir de l’origine” (2014) (© Deborah De Robertis)

Joseph Nechvatal is an artist whose computer-robotic assisted paintings and computer software animations are shown regularly in galleries and museums throughout the world. In 2011 his book Immersion Into...