A petition to cease displaying a provocative painting by a major artist on the walls of New York’s Metropolitan Museum has struck a raw nerve at a moment when US society is publicly, painfully grappling with issues of sexual harassment and misconduct.
New York resident Mia Merrill launched a petition on care2 earnestly if verbosely titled “Metropolitan Museum of Art: Remove Balthus’ Suggestive Painting of a Pubescent Girl, Thérèse Dreaming.” The petition’s aim is not entirely clear, since Merrill goes on to say that she is not, despite the title, actually asking for the 1938 painting to be removed from the collection, but that the museum “more carefully vet the art on its walls.” Nor is Balthus’s fascination with young girls really news (1934’s “The Guitar Lesson” is especially notorious): it’s such a central part of his work, in fact, that his widow gave an extensive interview on the topic in 2015. Still, the petition seems to be resonating and has thus far amassed more than 8,000 signatures out of its goal of 9,000, with the assertion that, “Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children.”
The Met has declined to stop displaying the painting. Museum spokesman Kenneth Weine told the New York Post that, “[The Met’s] mission is to collect, study, conserve, and present significant works of art across all times and cultures in order to connect people to creativity, knowledge, and ideas. … Moments such as this provide an opportunity for conversation, and visual art is one of the most significant means we have for reflecting on both the past and the present.”
On Monday, the National Coalition Against Censorship issued a statement in support of the museum, arguing that, “The protesters’ claim … fundamentally misconstrues the role of cultural institutions, which is to facilitate a diverse public’s engagement with a rich array of cultures and objects by framing and contextualizing them. … Art can often offer insights into difficult realities and, as such, merits vigorous defense.”
In a year that’s already seen major controversies about the political implications of what works museums seek to display (the Whitney Museum faced an uproar when artist and critic Hannah Black called for Dana Schutz’s painting of Emmett Till in his casket, featured in its biennial, to be destroyed; the Guggenheim removed several significant works from its major exhibition of contemporary Chinese art after outcry from animal-rights protestors), the petition is another sticky web of important questions about representation and hard ones about censorship.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Back With an Inflatable Dolphin
Episode four, in which artists tackled themes of justice and injustice, was the most lifeless of the reality TV show so far.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Tickets to Sold-Out Vermeer Show Are Going for Hundreds
The online resale market for the Rijksmuseum’s smash exhibition is booming, with tickets selling on eBay for over $2K.
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Who Will Decide on the Future of a Miami Native Burial Ground?
Native activists say sacred remains and objects dug up from a Brickell construction site should remain there, but mega-developer Jorge Pérez is pushing back.
How Can a Curator Approach South Asian Futurisms?
How do I acknowledge my shortcomings while reckoning with obscured histories and the exclusion of subaltern narratives in the fine art landscape? A working checklist for curators.
MCA Chicago Presents On Stage: Frictions
Will Rawls, Shamel Pitts | TRIBE, and Barak adé Soleil explore Blackness, queerness, movement, and dance in performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The Complicated Legacy of Camilo Egas
The Ecuadorian painter, a leading figure of Latin America’s Indigenismo art movement, has been both praised and scorned for his representation of Indigenous peoples.
Tom Jones Zeroes in on Ho-Chunk Visibility
“I think about the young kids, the teenagers, and I think being able to see yourself represented in art is so powerful,” says the artist.