Lionel Shriver Lionel Shriver

Why not ban artists who forget to feed their cats?

We’ve stopped making a distinction between behaviour that is criminal and that which is obnoxious

Sometimes a picture — the big picture — is worth more than a thousand words. Consider this Art vs Artist, Part II.

As #MeToo rolls inexorably on, the movement has scored another casualty, the wheelchair-bound, 77-year-old Chuck Close, whose reputation as a photo-realist had until last month been as immense as his paintings. Two women have come forward describing similar encounters with the artist in his Manhattan studio. Invited to pose for photographs, neither woman was forewarned that the modelling would entail nudity.

One woman confided to the Huffington Post that in 2013 she resisted Close’s request to disrobe, but then complied ‘to be polite’. Close remarked — memorably, it must be said — ‘Your pussy looks delicious.’ At which point she dressed and left in haste, declining his proffered $200; she’d made the appointment merely because she’d been flattered by the great man’s interest. In a previous instance in 2007, Close purportedly asked another young woman, then a graduate arts student, to strip, explaining only after she did so that he was working on a project photographing vaginas. Asking if he could touch her, he reached towards, but did not contact, her crotch. Alarmed, the model dressed and left, though being a penurious student, she did accept the $200. Again, no photographs were ever taken.

If these allegations are accurate (the artist disputes them), Close was clearly lewd and salacious. His motivation for scheduling these sessions appears other than professional.

Yet the larger question is whether these contested accusations justify the cancellation of a solo show of Close’s work at America’s most prestigious art museum, Washington DC’s National Gallery. Since, the New York Times has quizzed multiple galleries over whether they plan to take down Chuck Close paintings on display.

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