Artist Emma Sulkowicz Wore Asterisks—and Little Else—to Protest Chuck Close at the Met (and Picasso at MoMA) by Sarah Cascone
By Sarah Cascone
Emma Sulkowicz, an artist, best known for lugging a mattress around Columbia University in protest of the school’s handling of rape allegations, is making headlines again. On Tuesday, Sulkowicz, accompanied by photographer Sangsuk Sylvia Kang, staged a series of performative protests in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and a Second Avenue subway station.
The performance’s main target, the New York Times reported, was the work of Chuck Close, who was recently accused of making crude comments to his female models. Clad in a pair of black underwear and asterisk-shaped pasties, Sulkowicz stood in front of Close’s work at the Met and at the 86th Street Q station, which features mosaics by the artist, including a colorful self-portrait.
Sulkowicz also hit the MoMA, pausing at Pablo Picasso‘s celebrated painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. “Picasso’s main conceit are these lines that chop up women’s body,” Sulkowicz told artnet News. “It’s kind of dismembering bodies to rearrange them as more visually appealing.”
A few days before Tuesday’s action, a story in the Times had explored the possibility that museums might soon offer disclaimers about the objectionable behaviors of artists alongside their work. Such contextualizing notes, marked with asterisks, sometimes appear with controversial portrait sitters, but to add them for artists would be entering new territory.
“I was just so appalled by what the museum directors were saying in the article,” Sulkowicz said. “One guy said something like, ‘if we go down this road, all of our museum walls would be bare.’ I was like, ‘are you only showing work by Harvey Weinstein?'”
“An asterisk is such a small punctuation mark compared to the magnitude of how sexual abuse affects these women,” Sulkowicz said. “That museum directors weren’t even interested in speaking about it on those terms was really abhorrent to me.”
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