Poll: should the Met Museum reconsider the way it displays a controversial painting?

12,000 people have signed a petition calling for the museum to reconsider
Jonathan Knott
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is facing calls for it to reconsider the way it displays a 1938 painting of an adolescent girl in what campaigners have argued is a “sexually suggestive pose”.

Thérèse Dreaming, by the late Polish-French artist known as Balthus (born Balthasar Klossowski de Rola), shows a girl leaning back in a chair with her underwear visible.

The model, Thérèse Blanchard, was about 12 or 13 at the time the painting was made, according to the museum’s website.

A petition calling for the museum to “reconsider the way it is displaying” the painting has gained almost 12,000 signatures.

On the petition web page, the organiser, Mia Merrill, said: “I am not asking for this painting to be censored, destroyed or never seen again. I am asking The Met to seriously consider the implications of hanging particular pieces of art on their walls, and to be more conscientious in how they contextualise those pieces to the masses.”

Merrill said that this could be accomplished “by either removing the piece from that particular gallery, or providing more context in the painting's description”.

She gave the example of text stating that "some viewers find this piece offensive or disturbing, given Balthus' artistic infatuation with young girls”.

Merrill also tweeted that the painting was “undeniably romanticising the sexualisation of a child”.

But Ken Wiene, a spokesman for the museum, told the Guardian that the decision to not remove the painting provided an opportunity to reflect.

“Moments such as this provide an opportunity for conversation, and visual art is one of the most significant means we have for reflecting on both the past and the present and encouraging the continuing evolution of existing culture through informed discussion and respect for creative expression,” said Weine.

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