National Gallery Postpones Chuck Close and Thomas Roma Shows Over Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

Several women have come forward to accuse both artists of inappropriate behavior.

Chuck Close Photo: Jared Siskin/patrickmcmullan.com

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, has postponed two upcoming exhibitions because of allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior by the featured artists. Chuck Close was to have been the subject of “In the Tower: Chuck Close,” scheduled to open May 13, while the work of photographer Thomas Roma was to have gone on view in September.

Both men have been accused of sexual misconduct. Several women who had been asked to pose for Close have come forward to the Huffington Post and Hyperallergic, claiming he had made unprofessional sexual remarks. In the wake of those reports, four more women have come forward to level similar allegations against the artist, with one woman claiming he touched her and asked her to “play with” herself. In a statement to Hyperallergic, Close offered an apology: “Having learned that I made these women upset and feel uncomfortable, I do apologize, without qualification.”

Thomas Roma, <em>Untitled</em>, from the series "Come Sunday" (1991–94). Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, ©2016 Thomas Roma

Thomas Roma’s Untitled, from the series “Come Sunday” (1991–94). Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, ©2016 Thomas Roma

Roma recently retired from his post as a professor at New York’s Columbia University after five former students spoke to the New York Times earlier this month about his alleged sexual misconduct. He stands accused of repeatedly pursuing sexual relationships with students. Roma has disputed the accusations. In a statement, his lawyer said the women’s accounts are “replete with inaccuracies and falsehoods.”

“Given the recent attention on their personal lives, we discussed postponement of the installations with each artist. All parties involved acknowledged that it is not the appropriate time to present these installations,” Anabeth Guthrie, the museum’s chief of communications, told the Washington Post. The museum has not yet announced any replacement programming.

In November, the NGA had received a gift of 87 images from Roma’s “Come Sunday” series (1991–94) of religious services in various Brooklyn communities. The museum had planned to showcase a selection of some two dozen of the newly acquired works.

Chuck Close, <em>Fanny/Fingerpainting</em> (1985). Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.

Chuck Close’s Fanny/Fingerpainting (1985). Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.

The Close show was to have been drawn largely from the NGA collection, featuring about 30 works in total. It has been scrubbed from the institution website, which makes note of just one piece by either man currently on view: a 1985 Close portrait titled Fanny/Fingerpainting, created using his fingerprint technique.

Close and Roma are among a still-growing list of powerful men who have been the subject of damning accusations of sexual impropriety in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Those implicated include prominent art-world figures such as now-former Artforum publisher Knight Landesman and ex-Armory show director Benjamin Genocchio, as well as other high-profile figures in Hollywood and academia.


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