Performance Artist Arrested Again at Musée d’Orsay after Reenacting Manet’s ‘Olympia’

Deborah de Robertis is at it again.

Deborah de Robertis Photo: I Mille Occhi ‏(@IMilleOcchi) via Twitter

The Luxembourgian performance artist Deborah de Robertis has been arrested at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris after disrobing and reclining in front of Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1865), recreating the pose of the famous painting’s subject.

On Sunday, de Robertis’ lawyer, Tewfik Bouzenoune,said the artist “was wearing a portable camera to film the public’s reaction,” insisting that “it was an artistic performance,” the Guardian reports.

Édouard Manet, Olympia (1863). Image: Courtesy of New Directions.

Édouard Manet, Olympia (1863).
Image: Courtesy of New Directions.

Manet’s depiction of a French prostitute was included in the museum’s exhibition “Splendor and Misery: Images of Prostitution 1850–1910,” whose opening in September had to be delayed due to a strike over plans to keep the museum open seven days a week. The exhibition closed on Sunday, after a highly successful four-month run.

The artwork was highly controversial when it was first exhibited in 19th century Paris due to its explicit and realistic depiction of a prostitute, shocking audiences at the time, who were more accustomed to seeing women in art depicted as nymphs and historical figures.

Olympia Photo: Deborah de Robertis via Facebook

An image inspired by Manet’s Olympia, posted by de Robertis on her Facebook page.
Photo: via Deborah de Robertis’s Facebook.

De Robertis’s performance was presumably an attempt to provoke a similar uproar in contemporary viewers by presenting an even more realistic version of Manet’s artwork.

The staff at the Musée d’Orsay responded by calling the police and pressing charges against the artist for indecent exposure. According to the news agency AFP, a museum spokeswoman praised the prompt response of the museum’s security staff.

“There were many people in front of the painting. Security guards responded well, they closed the room and asked her to get dressed. As she refused, the police were called and removed her,” she said.


Deborah de Robertis performing Mirror of Origin (2014).
Photo: Video still via DailyMotion.

De Robertis is becoming something of a recurrent problem for the historic Parisian museum due to her highly explicit reenactments of controversial 19th century French paintings.

The artist made headlines in May 2014 for exposing her vagina in front of Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde (Origin of the World) for a video work titled Mirror of Origin. She was also removed from the premises by police back then.

After the incident, de Robertis insisted: “If you ignore the context, you could construe this performance as an act of exhibitionism, but what I did was not an impulsive act.”

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