Facebook Censors Artist for Naked Performance Photo Atop Toilet

The performance piece is mocking "The Artist Is Present."

Lisa Levy, The Artist Is Humbly Present, censored. Photo: courtesy of Lisa Levy/Christopher Stout Gallery.
Lisa Levy, The Artist Is Humbly Present, censored. Photo: courtesy of Lisa Levy/Christopher Stout Gallery.

Christoper Stout Gallery in Brooklyn had its Facebook account temporarily blocked after users of the social media network reported that a photograph of artist Lisa Levy sitting naked on the toilet was inappropriate.

The image is promoting Levy’s upcoming two-day performance piece, titled The Artist is Humbly Present, which is a satirical take on Marina Abramović‘s iconic 2010 performance,  The Artist Is Present, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

“You can see her top, but you can’t see her bottom,” said gallerist Christopher Stout of the controversial image on Bedford & Bowery. “It’s just such a crazy, conservative kind of standard.”

“I find it so tellingly ironic that the same images that got our gallery banned from Facebook have been used in major consumer-geared media outlets,” said a post on the gallery’s Facebook page. It continued, “When New York art galleries can’t show the exact images that all of the major press outlets find suitable for selling ad revenue, YOU are in danger of becoming extinct.”

Facebook has come under fire for censoring art in the past, with a French legal battle over the rights to post Gustave Courbet‘s explicit painting L’Origine du Monde. Jerry Saltz was temporarily banned from Facebook for posting graphic images from medieval art, and one of Denmark’s most famous landmarks, a topless statue of the Little Mermaid, has also been censored by the site.

In fact, Levy’s topless toilet pic is the second time that the Bushwick gallery has run afoul of Facebook—perhaps unsurprisingly so, given Stout’s pledge to showcase “subversive work,” as he told Bedford & Bowery prior to the gallery opening last October. (Stout is also the founder of the Bushwick Art Crit Group.)

The first time Facebook instructed Stout to remove images was when he was promoting Linda Grigg’s “The First Time Is Not Like Porn,” a show of drawings based on tales of people’s first sexual encounters recounted to the artist. Christopher Stout's Lisa Levy show ran afoul of Facebook content guidelines.

After an appeal, the gallery was reclassifed as an Adult Business, Stout told Bedford & Bowery: “In Facebook’s eyes, there’s no different between my feminist-centric gallery and the porn shop down the street.”

Facebook’s official community standards ban fully-exposed genitals, and most images of female nipples, but “allow[s] photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.”

Although Facebook may have some control over what Stout posts online, they can’t stop Levy’s actual performance, which is scheduled for this weekend, nudity and all.

Lisa Levy’s The Artist is Humbly Present will take place at Christopher Stout Gallery, 299 Meserole Street, Brooklyn, January 30–31, 2016, 1:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.


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