In particular, a piece at the New York Met.
(via the article)
The piece, “Thérèse Dreaming” by the French artist Balthus, “sexualizes” the girl by depicting her lounging in a skirt with her knee up on a chair, according to the petition, which was posted on the website Care 2.
“The artist of this painting, Balthus, had a noted infatuation with pubescent girls and this painting is undeniably romanticizing the sexualization of a child,” writes Mia Merrill, 30, a New York City entrepreneur who started the petition.
“Given the current climate around sexual assault … The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children.”
The painting is from 1938 and the Met’s response to the 7000 or so people who went online to sign was a satisfying NO.
But a rep for the museum said it won’t remove the painting because art is meant to reflect many time periods — not just the current one.
“[Our] 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,” said spokesman Kenneth Weine.
“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.”
The article also notes a previous show of the man’s work back in 2013. From the Village Voice article about that:
Curated by Sabine Rewald, a renowned Balthus scholar, and featuring 34 hard-to-borrow paintings, the Met’s exhibition expends a tremendous amount of energy on interpreting the Frenchman’s feline fancy (the French word chat, like its English counterpart, also refers to the vagina), but precious little on his crucial leitmotif: little girl lust. It’s as if the curator and her wall texts are too embarrassed to squarely face the artist’s lifelong psychological problem. In view of Balthus’s canonical popularity (the Met and the Pompidou held a storied retrospective for the artist in 1984), it’s patently absurd today to muffle his enduring theme.
Doing a quick Google of the man’s work, I can say I’m not a fan of his styles but to understand the art means to have an understanding of the artist and what drove him to depict the scenes he chose.
Balthus’ composition, derived from Renaissance models, used the inter-relationship of figures, objects, and setting to create a sense of space. The atmospheric stillness in Balthus’ painting infuses the everyday activities he depicted with a psychological sense of mystery and intrigue.
Balthus worked outside the main artistic currents that developed in Paris, but during the 1930s he was in contact with the Surrealist group and he became friendly with the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. The Surrealists, who were interested in the psychology of the unconscious, were drawn to the dream-like quality of Balthus’ paintings, their sexual ambiguity, and his confessed desire to shock. Balthus himself disavowed the erotic content in his work.
I look at the piece and I see an innocence there, of a girl in a hot room maybe, trying to cool off a little. It’s intimate maybe, and the girl is perhaps late teens but I don’t see a sexual picture here, in all honesty. Not compared to the other art the man did. I’m glad the gallery didn’t cave to public pressure on this.
If you don’t like it, the solution is for you to avoid it, not for you to try and forbid others to see it.