More Museum Censorship After Balthus Cancellation?

Balthus, Thérèse sur une banquette (1939). Courtesy of Christie's.

A pair of German museum directors spoke out on Thursday, warning about the dangerous precedent set by the Museum Folkwang’s cancellation of an exhibition of French-Polish artist Balthus due to what critics have called pedophilia. According to a report from the German news agency (dpa), Museum Morsbroich director Markus Heinzelmann said, “The museum must be a place of open discussion, not forbidden discussion.” He worries of future instances in which governmental agencies may further intervene in exhibition programming. Heinzelmann’s colleague at the Von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal is similarly anxious that through such interventions of political correctness, the boundaries of art and its topics could become constrained.

On February 5th the Museum Folkwang canceled the Balthus show due to fear that it “could lead to unwanted legal consequences,” due to its inclusion of suggestive images of an underage model named Anna. She had posed for Balthus since she was eight years old. “Balthus: the Last Pictures” was to feature 2,000 Polaroids, some of which were previously shown at Gagosian’s Madison Avenue gallery last fall.

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