A 19th century painting which features naked women was pull down from the wall of a museum in Manchester, England. While critics call it a mere censorship, the museum claims it would “prompt conversation about how we display and interpret artwork”.
Gallery 10 may look a little different to how you last saw it… This is to prompt conversation about how we display and interpret artwork in #Manchester’s public collection. #MAGsoniaboyce pic.twitter.com/IXkcODOkTk
— MCR Art Gallery (@mcrartgallery) January 26, 2018
Painted by John William Waterhouse in 1896, it’s called Hylas and the Nymphs. It’s demonstrating a scene from Greek Mythology where Nomia, a water nymph, seduces Hylas, one of Heracles’ companions, to his watery grave. The seven mythical creatures in the painting are all shown as naked women.
— MAGcurators (@MAGcurators) January 30, 2018
The painting is taken down amid the #MeToo movement, when sexual harassment has been seen everywhere. According to the museum “the gallery exists in a world full of intertwined issues of gender, race, sexuality and class which affect us all. How could artworks speak in more contemporary, relevant ways?”
Censorship in England: @mcrartgallery removes a Victorian painting, JW Waterhouse’s 1896 “Hylas and the Nymphs”, and the postcards representing it, Iran style
Next step is to destroy it, ISIS stylehttps://t.co/1faTWe22fC pic.twitter.com/k1zq9Hz9ga
— Alfons López Tena (@alfonslopeztena) January 31, 2018
Next to this painting there were so many other paintings of beautiful women, some of them without clothing. The room is called “In Pursuit of Beauty”. “This gallery presents the female body as either a ‘passive decorative form’ or a ‘femme fatale’. Let’s challenge this Victorian fantasy!” the museum spokesperson added.
The painting was pulled down by Sonia Boyce, the gallery team, and other collaborators, including drag artists from Family Gorgeous who wanted to explore “‘gender trouble’ among the gallery’s 19th century painting displays and wider culture.”
Pulling down of the picture was followed by a wide range of protest among people. So many critics blamed the museum for the censorship. The art gallery was compared to a repressive government which censors art. One twitter said the museum misunderstood since the nymphs in the painting are luring Hylas to his death.
Fools. The nymphs, lesser goddesses of nature, are subjugating Hylas! They are exercising agency! There's nothing passive, timid or gratuitous about their forms. They are in control and luring a man to his doom! Rabid feminists might be overjoyed, but they're too obtuse.
— Kathy Soltani (@KathySoltani) February 1, 2018
One critics asked in his twitter that how “looking at a blank wall” would spark any kind of debate. The museum replied that it was the result of “many people coming together to prompt conversation about how we display and interpret artworks.”
Your point is valid. However, it's the people's gallery. This action and discourse is not the work of iconoclastic staff, it's the result of many people coming together to prompt conversation about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection.
— MCR Art Gallery (@mcrartgallery) January 28, 2018