Protestors Demanded The Met Museum Remove A Controversial Painting— And The Met Just Responded

The Metropolitan Museum of Art just announced that it will not remove a controversial painting by French painter Balthus from public display. The painting, entitled “Thérèse Dreaming” (1938), depicts a young girl kicked back in a chair with her underwear visible beneath her skirt.

An online petition signed by over 8,000 easily offended humans urged the museum to rethink its decision to include the painting, claiming it is “disturbing” that an institution as renowned as the Met would encourage work which “sexualizes” the image of a prepubescent girl.

Given the “current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, the Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children,” wrote Mia Merrill on the petition website. She cites the artist’s “noted infatuation with prepubescent girls” as contextual proof of the painting’s inappropriateness.

Museum spokesman Kenneth Weine told the New York Post that the Met would not be removing the work, saying “moments such as this provide an opportunity for conversation” and that the mission of the institution is to “collect, study, conserve, and present significant works of art across all times and cultures in order to connect people to creativity, knowledge and ideas.”

Artists and connoisseurs alike came out in droves on Twitter to support Weine’s statement, asserting the petition did nothing but enforce art censorship.

The National Coalition Against Censorship also came out to support the Met’s decision, offering the following statement:

“Recent cases of censorship, including the threats of violence that forced the Guggenheim Museum in New York to remove several exhibits, reveal a disturbing trend of attempts to stifle art that engages difficult subjects. Art can often offer insights into difficult realities and, as such, merits vigorous defense.”

A sign at the Met warned visitors “some of the paintings in this exhibition may be disturbing to some visitors” but Merrill updated her petition to say she’d consider it a success if the museum also included a message explicitly noting Balthus’ penchant for pedophilia “as brief as: “Some viewers find this piece offensive or disturbing, given Balthus’ artistic infatuation with young girls.”

Everybody’s favorite art critic really said it best:

“Um if you take this out, you pretty much have to remove ALL art from wings of India, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Greece, Rome, Renaissance, Rococo, and Impressionism, German Expressionism, Klimnt, Munch, and all Picasso & Matisse. #ArtWorldTaliban  Maybe concentrate instead on calling out sexual predators and harassers. @metmuseum.”