Met Refuses To Bow To Petition Demanding Removal Of Balthus 'Thérèse Dreaming' (1938), Suggesting Dialogue Instead

Balthus, Thérese Dreaming (1938). © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Balthus, Thérese Dreaming (1938). © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has no intention of removing a painting of a young girl by Balthus, 'Thérèse Dreaming' (1938), that has been targeted by an online petition. 

The petition, launched by New York City resident Mia Merrill, has garnered more than 8,700 signatures in five days. Headlined “Metropolitan Museum of Art: Remove Balthus’s Suggestive Painting of a Pubescent Girl, Thérèse Dreaming", the petition states that the Met should not “proudly display” an image that “romanticizes the sexualization of a child.”

In response to Merrill's accusation that the Met is, perhaps unintentionally, supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children, a spokesman for the Met called the controversy “an opportunity for a conversation” about the “continuing evolution of existing culture.”

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s mission 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.’ Moments such as this provide an opportunity for conversation, and visual art is one of the most significant means we have for reflecting on both the past and the present, and encouraging the continuing evolution of existing culture through informed discussion and respect for creative expression.”

ArtNet News provides considerable insights into the background of the painting and also Balthus as an artist.

We need dialogue and conversation around all art, its meaning, but also its intention -- not censorship based on affronts. Just remember that in the Bush administration, Atty Gen John Ashcroft had a blue drape hung over the naked breast of the Capitol's Lady Liberty statue.

Personally, I find Picasso's visual chopping up of women into little frightening pieces to be more unsettling than this artwork. Will we be banning Renoir's naked ladies next?

If much of our great art has come from men's obsession with naked and nubile ladies, then let's talk about how that impacts our treatment of women. What rights is the male artist expressing? Censoring truth is not the road to freedom.

We need dialogue and conversation around all art, its meaning, but also its intention -- not censorship based on affronts. Just remember that in the Bush administration, Atty Gen John Ashcroft had a blue drape hung over the naked breast of the Capitol's Lady Liberty statue. ~ Anne