In light of allegations of sexual misconduct by the artist Chuck Close, some museums have begun altering exhibitions and displays. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., announced last week that it was calling off a Close exhibition planned for May, while Seattle University has removed a 2000 self-portrait by Close. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia currently has on view an exhibition of Close’s photographs, but it has decided not to pull the show. Instead, next month, PAFA will host another, separate show organized in response to the Close allegations, with works from PAFA’s permanent collection included.
The exhibition started with a forum held with PAFA students, faculty, and museum representatives, PAFA’s director, Brooke Davis Anderson, told ARTnews. “After the forum, a group students, faculty, and museum staff are collectively, with my guidance, working on an exhibition that will go up, along the lines of a charette or a workshop,” she said. “It will go up outside the Chuck Close exhibition, and will address issues of gender, power, the politics of the workplace in the art world, and, most specifically, the artist in the studio. Because PAFA is a museum in a school, the dynamic of the artist in the studio is something we think about all the time.”
“Chuck Close Photographs,” the exhibition on view at PAFA, opened in October and will remain on view through April 8. The show has been touring since it first opened in 2015 at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York; PAFA is its final venue. It features about 90 works related to Close’s experiments with photography.
The allegations against Close were revealed in stories published by HuffPost in December and by Hyperallergic this month. (Anderson explained that the plans for the forum went into action almost immediately after the initial report, but the school was on winter break, and so the event wasn’t held until this month.) Multiple women detailed accounts of encounters they had with the artist, who is known for his photo-realistic portraits, where he asked them to model in his studio and told to disrobe. He then allegedly made lewd sexual comments and, when his advances were rebuffed, offered the women money on their way out. Close’s lawyer, Lance Gotko, has rebuffed the allegations, and the artist recently told the New York Times, “It’s lies. I haven’t slept in weeks. I’ve been such a supporter of women and women artists. I’ve done nothing wrong and I’m being crucified.”
As part of the exhibition, which will be held in a space adjacent to the Close show’s galleries, PAFA will put together a timeline related to sexual misconduct and gender equity. “One thing we felt very strongly about is that we take this transformational time, where women finally feel empowered to speak their truths and to be supportive of that, and look to the year 2050, for example, so 30 years from now,” Anderson said. “We’re going to have a timeline that says, How do we get to what we want to see in 2050, which, for PAFA, is a place where inclusion and diversity are just the name of the game? How do we get to that in two generations?”