Following accusations of sexual misconduct, Washington’s National Gallery of Art has indefinitely postponed an upcoming exhibition of Chuck Close, one of this country’s most celebrated portrait artists and Seattle University removed his “Self-Portrait 2000” from display citing concerns over “potential student, faculty or staff reaction”.
The anger directed at men like Close, who are alleged to have abused their power to abuse women (Close acknowledged he made crude comments about women’s bodies in the past and apologized for doing so), is not surprising. The outrages of the old regime have been exposed for all to see. The people are marching on the Bastille of male privilege. But it is one thing to call for the punishment of men who may have committed despicable acts, and quite another to condemn their art to oblivion.
There have long been moral monsters among artists, much as we don’t like to think about it: Leni Riefenstahl yielded her integrity to totalitarian power when she celebrated the Nazis, Ezra Pound spread virulent anti-semitism, DW Griffith produced racist epics. Artists have often used and abused their wives, lovers and models. They have murdered and betrayed. Read more