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The origin of the vandalized world, the Musée d’Orsay files a complaint

“My performance [was] intended to denounce the abuses of power and sexual abuse that have been rampant for decades in the art world,” declares performer Deborah de Robertis on her X account.

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The origin of the vandalized world, the Musée d’Orsay files a complaint

“My performance [was] intended to denounce the abuses of power and sexual abuse that have been rampant for decades in the art world,” declares performer Deborah de Robertis on her X account. Monday May 6 at the Center Pompidou- Metz, a group of feminist activists led by the artist tagged the words “MeToo” in red paint on four works including The Origin of the World by Gustave Courbet. The Musée d'Orsay, which collects these works, announced to AFP on Friday that it had filed a complaint.

“Smeared with red paint, the work was taken down for examination by a qualified conservator. The frame has received numerous paint splashes which could leave lasting marks even after restoration,” the museum said in a press release, indicating that it had “filed a complaint”. Gustave Courbet's painting entitled The Origin of the World, which was protected by glass, must be restored at the Center Pompidou-Metz (east) on Monday.

“Tests carried out to clean the protective glass have shown that the use of solvents will be necessary, altering its properties and leading to its replacement,” he said. “All of these operations are delicate and must be prepared by a more in-depth analysis. Also, given the time required for interventions, The Origin of the World by Gustave Courbet cannot be hung in the exhibition Lacan, when art meets psychoanalysis before its closing on May 27,” added the museum.

Painted in 1866, this painting represents a woman's genitals. Entering the collections of the Musée d'Orsay in 1995, it was loaned to the Center Pompidou-Metz as part of an exhibition dedicated to the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who was its last private owner.

A photo by Deborah de Robertis, called Mirror of the Origin of the World, was also displayed near The Origin of the World for the exhibition. We see the artist pose, naked, under Courbet's work, a performance carried out on May 29, 2014 at the Musée d'Orsay.

Among the vandalized works, one “could have been damaged in its integrity because not all of them were protected,” according to the public prosecutor in Metz. A red embroidery on fabric by Annette Messager, called I think therefore I suck (1991), was also stolen.

This action, organized by the Franco-Luxembourgish performance artist Deborah de Robertis, was called “We do not separate the woman from the artist”. In this case, two women were indicted and placed under judicial supervision. A third person was not arrested. “I obviously used a non-aggressive material that disappears with water. This way of demonizing, criminalizing and dramatizing performance is a classic of the genre. Because the urgency for the museum, at this precise moment, is to make the accusations made against the curator invisible,” the performer reacted on Friday.

She had previously denounced, in an open letter, the behavior of six men in the industry, calling them “calculators”, “predators” or “censors”. On May 8, her X account, the 40-year-old woman continued her accusations: “All these men know how to use their power to establish their sexual domination to the detriment of the works of young female artists. this well-practiced exercise of power has been a daily occurrence since I was 17. Like so many other women artists, my work was boycotted as my body was consumed,” she continues. In her letter, she points the finger at the exhibition curator and art critic, Bernard Marcadé. “I was crushed by his power (...) I was aware at that time that he could decide with a snap of his fingers to make my work exist or to deny it and I gradually became aware that my body was, for him, a necessary step.”

A few days earlier, she had published a video on her Instagram account, featuring Bernard Marcadé. In this recording, in the form of a trailer, we can see the exhibition curator making repeated advances with sexual connotations. In the description of the video, which Deborah de Robertis edited on the morning of Saturday April 11, she says: “When I was a young artist about fifteen years ago, he invited me to an important exhibition, then when I understood that I was invited for “after the exhibition”. I armed myself with my camera.” In this message, the artist also claims to be “in possession of the work of Annette Messager” and is waiting “to be summoned by the police”.

Fined for stripping in front of the Lourdes Grotto in 2018, she has also been acquitted several times after similar actions, notably in 2017 for showing her genitals in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

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