Amedeo Modigliani, “Reclining Nude” (1917) (via Wikimedia Commons)

Dispirited by the stringent censorship of nude art on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, a group of Austrian museums has decided to resort to a far more permissive platform — OnlyFans.

The initiative comes from the Vienna Tourist Board, which launched a new channel on the adult content website to offer users an uncensored view of “the capital’s X-rated content.”

“Vienna is home to some of the world’s most famous artworks, many containing nudity,” the board’s OnlyFans page explains. “The most prominent social networks have policies in place that ban or censor such works. With our OnlyFans account, we want to give these artworks the freedom they deserve — including on social media.”

YouTube video

The OnlyFans account features nudes from the collections of four Vienna-based museums: Albertina; Leopold Museum; Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum); and Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna (Natural History Museum).

On YouTube, the board released a teaser showing partial views of works by Egon Schiele, Amedeo Modigliani, Peter Paul Rubens, and a prehistoric Venus of Willendorf figurine. The video is titled “Vienna strips on OnlyFans.”

Contemporary artists have expressed frustration at social media’s crackdown on drawings, photographs, paintings, and sculptures depicting nudity, even when it’s partial or implied. In the case of Instagram, this practice contradicts the company’s own community guidelines, which permit depictions of nudity in images of artwork. In a short-lived change of policy, OnlyFans itself threatened to bar explicit content. The decision was reversed in a matter of days following the outcry of sex workers who depend on the platform for their livelihoods.

Helen Hartlauer, a spokesperson for the tourist board, told the Guardian that these restrictions have made promoting exhibitions at Vienna’s museums “almost impossible.” As an example, she mentioned Albertina’s current Modigliani exhibition, which contains many of the Italian artist’s famous nudes.

“Of course you can work without that, but these artworks are crucial and important to Vienna,” Hartlauer said. “When you think of the self-portrait by Schiele from 1910, it’s one of the most iconic artworks. If they cannot be used on a communications tool as strong as social media, it’s unfair and frustrating.”

A subscription to the channel will cost you $4.99 per month, but subscribers also receive a free Vienna City Card or an admission ticket to one of the featured museums. 

Is it a publicity gimmick to fundraise some more money for these museums? You bet your bare, artistic bottom it is. But it also sends a message to social media companies to put a check on their misplaced puritanism, or else they’ll be abandoned for a more alluring alternative.

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...