Manchester Art Gallery has censored a historic artwork seemingly in response to #MeToo
concerns about men gazing on naked women.
John William Waterhouse's painting Hylas and the Nymphs was painted in 1896 and depicts pubescent, naked nymphs tempting a handsome young man to his doom. It is one of the most recognisable of the pre-Raphaelite paintings.
Although framing the decision as some sort of prompt for a debate, the censorship seems permanent as the gallery has also announced that will also be erased from the post card selection in the gallery shop.
Clare Gannaway, the gallery's 'curator' of contemporary art, explained the censorship on grounds of political correctness. She spoke about the work, and related paintings which were exhibited in a room titled In Pursuit of Beauty :
The title was a bad one, as it was male artists pursuing women's bodies, and paintings that presented the female body as a passive decorative art form or a femme fatale.
For me personally, there is a sense of embarrassment that we haven't dealt with it sooner. Our attention has been elsewhere ... we've collectively forgotten to look at this space and think about it properly. We want to do something about it now
because we have forgotten about it for so long.
She added that the debates around Time's Up and #MeToo had fed into the decision.
She also invented a bizarre take on "I don't believe in censorship...BUT...". She claimed
The aim of the removal was to provoke debate, not to censor. It wasn't about denying the existence of particular artworks. [ ...BUT... it was about preventing men from gazing on the female form].
The response so far has been mixed. Some have said it sets a dangerous precedent, while others have called it po-faced and politically correct.
I particularly enjoyed a blunt reader comment on a miserable Guardian editorial piece
supporting the censorship. TheGreatRonRafferty commented:
Nope, it's censorship. The reason it has been removed is because it shows women's breasts, but now we're being fed bunkum, because those who would hide women's breasts aren't willing to say so.
And an the subject of journalistic accuracy, Andrew Sutton wrote to the Guardian:
Your arts correspondent, Mark Brown, repeatedly refers to Waterhouse as a Pre-Raphaelite. Waterhouse was a prominent Victorian painter contemporary with the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, but was never a member and to refer to him as such is just
Update: Censorship reversed
3rd February 2018. See article from bbc.com
Manchester Art Gallery said the censored painting will be back on display on Saturday, seemingly on council
orders. It's been clear that many people feel very strongly about the issues raised, Manchester City Council said.
Critics have been robustly condemning the curators for being puritanical and politically correct.
The gallery's interim director Amanda Wallace said:
We were hoping the experiment would stimulate discussion, and it's fair to say we've had that in spades - and not just from local people but from art-lovers around the world.
Throughout the painting's seven day absence, it's been clear that many people feel very strongly about the issues raised, and we now plan to harness this strength of feeling for some further debate on these wider issues.
Presumably the politically correct curators have been living in their own little Guardian reading filter bubble and simply didn't realise how few people supported their views on the censorship of art.
Offsite Comment: Perhaps a little sensitivity training for the staff of the gallery might be in order
4th February 2018. See article from independent.co.uk
by Kevin Childs, a lecturer on art history
The gallery is on tricky ground. Was it censoring Waterhouse's painting? Gannaway says no, but how else do you describe the removal of an
artwork because someone objects to its subject matter on the grounds of a debate that actually has nothing to do with it? Perhaps a little sensitivity training for the staff of the gallery might be in order.
...Read the full article from independent.co.uk
Offsite Comment: The new puritans waging war on art
7th February 2018. See article from spiked-online.com
The belief that art needs to be contextualised in this way is not only deeply patronising -- it is also opening up a gap between
the art world and the public. Mounting their moral high horses, curators and critics see the role of the arts as one of correcting the way people think about the world -- to make people see the world as it is seen by these elites: riven by gender
bias, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, corporate corruption, environmental irresponsibility, and so forth.
...Read the full article from spiked-online.com