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Barnes Foundation reveals Facebook censored marketing of its Suzanne Valadon exhibition

Censored by Facebook. Nude Sitting on a Sofa (detail) (1916) Suzanne Valadon. The Weisman & Michel Collection (© 2021 Artist Rights Society, New York)

Barnes Foundation’s Deputy Director, Martha Lucy has revealed that a few months ago – while the gallery was preparing the marketing for its Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel exhibition it received an email from Facebook to say the paintings in its digital advertisement promoting the show were ‘deemed inappropriate for the platform’.

The painting Nude Sitting on a Sofa (2016) depicting an unclothed woman was said to be adult content and the Philadelphia gallery appealed the decision. However, the appeal was rejected as the painting was a ‘violation of Facebook’s policies’.

Vienna Tourist board OnlyFans account

The revelation comes a month after the Vienna Tourist Board opened an OnlyFans account to promote artwork from four museums as it was tired of social media companies blocking or suspending its accounts for publishing paintings that depicted nudity.

It is not the first time social media has taken umbrage at the Barnes. Back in May TikTok cut a livestream that showed a Renoir nude filmed in the gallery.

Lucy said in an opinion piece on Hyperallergic that images deemed unacceptable to Facebook are classified as alluding to a sexual act or showing too much flesh. However, a statue depicting a fully nude person such as Michelangelo’s David was compliant.

Hypocrisy of Facebook’s guidelines

“The hypocrisy of Facebook’s guidelines, and the decision about our Valadon ad, doesn’t have to do with narrative context or the fame of the work of art,” she said. “It has to do with how we collectively read images of women. The theory of the male gaze refers to the way dominant forms of culture depict the world – especially women – from the perspective of a masculine, heterosexual point of view.”

Lucy said Valadon created the work in Paris more than 100 years ago at a time when it was extremely rare for women to pursue a career in painting.

“[She took] up a subject – the female nude – that for centuries had been the exclusive domain of male artists. Here was an artist that refused to play by society’s rules, who not only articulated her vision of the world but also muscled her way into exhibiting at the 1894 Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts. We were (and still are) proud to bring her long-neglected work into the spotlight.”

Lucy said Facebook’s gaze is ‘not just male but heteronormative’.

Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel is now showing until 9 January 2022.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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