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National Gallery of Art Indefinitely Postpones Chuck Close and Thomas Roma Shows

Following accusations of sexual misconduct against Close and Roma, the National Gallery of Art has postponed solo presentations of their works.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (photo by Smash the Iron Cage, via Wikimedia Commons)
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (photo by Smash the Iron Cage, via Wikimedia Commons)

Following accusations of sexual misconduct against the artist Chuck Close and the photographer Thomas Roma, the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC has postponed planned installations of their works.

The two presentations were to feature about two dozen works by each artist, all drawn from the NGA’s permanent collection; the Close installation was slated to open on May 13 while the Roma presentation was scheduled for September, according to the Washington Post. The NGA’s Chief of Communications Anabeth Guthrie confirmed to Hyperallergic that the two presentations have not been canceled, as the Post headline suggests, but rather postponed indefinitely.

“Given the recent attention on their personal lives, we discussed postponement of the installations with each artist,” Guthrie told the Post. “All parties involved acknowledged that it is not the appropriate time to present these installations.”

Chuck Close in a 2014 interview (screenshot by the author via YouTube)
Chuck Close in a 2014 interview in his studio (screenshot by the author via YouTube)

The NGA has more than 50 works by Close in its permanent collection, including paintings, prints, and collages spanning the early 1970s to 2013. Late last year, women who had visited Close’s studio to have their photos taken, or auditioned to have their photos taken, began coming forward with stories of sexual misconduct by the artist. After the first two women told their stories, four more women shared accounts with Hyperallergic of Close’s unwanted advances, vulgar questions and comments, and behavior they felt was exploitative.

It’s Chuck Close. I was trying to make excuses for his behavior,” recalled Carla Rodriguez, one of the women who shared her story with Hyperallergic. “His behavior was a surprise to me.”

Thomas Roma giving at TED talk at Columbia University in 2014 (screenshot via YouTube)
Thomas Roma giving at TED talk at Columbia University in 2014 (screenshot via YouTube)

In November of last year, the NGA acquired 87 photographs from Roma’s series Come Sunday (1991–94), which features images of services at predominantly African American churches in Brooklyn. Earlier this month, five former students of Roma’s at the School of Visual Arts and Columbia University came forward, accusing him of sexual misconduct. In the immediate aftermath of the accusations, Roma announced his immediate retirement from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where he had been teaching since 1996 and served as the director of the photography program.

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Hyperallergic is committed to reporting on sexual harassment in the art world. If you have a story about personal or institutional abuse in our field, please write to Claire Voon at [email protected]

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