When I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this past weekend, I was shocked to see a painting that depicts a young girl in a sexually suggestive pose. Balthus' painting, Thérèse Dreaming, is an evocative portrait of a prepubescent girl relaxing on a chair with her legs up and underwear exposed.
It is disturbing that the Met would proudly display such an image. They are a renowned institution and one of the largest, most respected art museums in the United States. The artist of this painting, Balthus, had a noted infatuation with pubescent girls, and it can be strongly argued that this painting romanticizes the sexualization of a child.
In 2013, the Met hosted the exhibit "Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations," which included more of Balthus' overtly pedophilic work. As the Guardian wrote: "The Met, not imprudently, has put a plaque at the start of the show that reads: "Some of the paintings in this exhibition may be disturbing to some visitors." If The Met had the wherewithal to reference the disturbing nature of Balthus for this exhibit, they understand the implications of displaying his art as a part of their permanent collection.
Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses without providing any type of clarification, The Met is, perhaps unintentionally, supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children.
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 contextualize those pieces to the masses. This can be accomplished by either removing the piece from that particular gallery, or providing more context in the painting's description. For example, a line as brief as, "some viewers find this piece offensive or disturbing, given Balthus' artistic infatuation with young girls."
Ultimately, this is a small ask considering how expansive the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection is (they can easily hang up another painting), how overtly sexual the painting is (the Met's description of the piece provides no background on Balthus or his reputation), and the current news headlines highlighting a macro issue about the safety and wellbeing of women of all ages.
Please sign this petition if you agree that the Met needs to reconsider the way it is displaying Balthus' suggestive, Thérèse Dreaming. I will be sending a letter to the museum alongside these signatures.