Painting of vagina by French artist Gustave Courbet sprayed with ‘MeToo’ graffiti | France

Two women spray-painted the words “MeToo” on a 19th-century painting of a female vagina by French artist Gustave Courbet in a stunt by a performance artist, a museum and the artist said.

“The Origin of the World,” a nude image painted in 1866, was protected by “glass” and police were on the scene to assess the damage, the Center Pompidou in the northeastern city of Metz told AFP on Monday.

The work was loaned to the Center Pompidou-Metz by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris as part of an exhibition dedicated to the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who once owned the painting.

Metz prosecutor Yves Badork said two women born in 1986 and 1993 were arrested after a total of five works, including Courbet’s nude body, were spray-painted with the words “MeToo”.

A third person, who has not been taken into custody, is believed to have stolen another piece of art, he said.

The stolen work – a red embroidery on white fabric by French artist Annette Messer – is called “I think therefore I am a bitch”.

French-Luxembourgish performance artist Deborah de Robertis told AFP she organized the red spray painting, done by two other people, as part of a performance titled: “You don’t separate the woman from the artist”.

In a video sent to AFP by de Robertis, a woman marks Courbet’s famous painting with red paint and then another painting.

They then chant “MeToo” before being led away by security.

De Robertis explained that he wanted to “challenge the history of art”, specifically by tagging the famous painting “MeToo” “because women are the origin of the world”.

In an open letter, de Robertis condemned the behavior of six men in the art world, describing them as “predators” and “censors”.

She said the actions were a feminist performance done because “the very closed world of contemporary art has remained largely silent until now.”

The artist said they also targeted another work by Austrian artist Valie Export.

De Robertis already had work on display at the venue – a photograph from a 2014 performance at the Musée d’Orsay in which she posed showing her vagina beneath a Courbet painting.

Culture Minister Rachida Dati wrote to X: “To the ‘activists’ who think art is not powerful enough to carry a message alone… A work of art is not a poster to color with the message of the day.”

The mayor of Metz, Francois Grodidier, condemned what he described as “a new attack on culture, this time by fanatical feminists”.

Courbet’s nude body was first owned by a Turkish-Egyptian diplomat named Halil Bey, a flamboyant figure in Paris in the 1860s who amassed a collection of artworks glorifying the female body before being ruined by his gambling debts. according to the Musee d’Orsay.

It belonged to Lacan before entering the museum’s collection in 1995.

A French court in 2020 ordered de Robertis to pay a fine of 2,000 euros ($2,150) for appearing naked in 2018 outside a cave in the southwestern city of Lourdes. Francea Catholic place of worship for those who believe in the Virgin Mary appeared there.

A case against her was dropped in 2017 after she showed her vagina in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum in the French capital.

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