Ai Weiwei on the US-Australia refugee deal: ‘Its exactly like slave trading’

Chinese artist brings three tackling runs about refugee crisis to Australia with a message

The internationally renowned Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei believes the US and Australia are engaging in a slave trade.

His claim comes amid a discussion of worldwide refugee movements, the impact of globalisation on human suffering and a lack of humanity in the west- which form the context of his contribution to this month’s Sydney Biennale exhibition.

Ai is well aware of Australia’s refugee policies, including its most recent chapter- a deal with the US to take up to 1,200 refugees languishing in offshore detention centres.

” That is a complete insult to the understanding of refugees ,” he says.” It’s exactly like slave trading. You cannot deal with human being by violating their[ rights ].”

Ai is in Australia this week to launch three of his runs- two exhibiting at Sydney’s Biennale. All confront and question the west’s complicity in the refugee crisis gripping the world.

One, Crystal Ball, is a two-tonne installing made of crystal and lifejackets, offering a chance of reflection on the chaos of the crisis.

The other, Law of the Journey, is an imposing 60 -metre-long rubber boat crammed with almost 300 gigantic faceless figures. It fills a warehouse on Cockatoo Island.

Ai Weiwei in front of Law of the Journey, a statement on the therapy of refugees, at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island. Photo: Ben Rushton/ EPA

The oversized life raft and its occupants are all black, made of the same rubber and by the same company that manufactures the barges most often used by refugees for the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

Ai built it to sit in the National Museum of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic- which accepts no refugees- and it was coincidence that it resolved so perfectly into an Australian space, one with its own history of displacement and detention.

Ai will also deliver a keynote address to launch his refugee documentary, Human Flow, for Australian audiences.

He spent two years traveling the world, visiting 23 countries and more than 40 refugee camps, to generate the confront movie and he remains shocked by what he saw.

” You just couldn’t believe it’s in Europe. It’s not shocking to find people escape, from fire, killing- this is natural. People bring their loved ones and just leave ,” he says.

” But it’s not natural to see Europe, which has been so superior in every aspect- not only economically but morally … their work on human rights has been the foundation of our modern society .”

Instead they are building walls and fences and camps, and changing migration laws and chasing down the boats, Ai says.

” It’s so cold, virtually pushing them back in the ocean if they can ,” he says.” Greece said … it’s just not possible for us to push them back to the ocean, otherwise they would do it .”

Australia does. For many years the Australian government has operated the legally contentious policy of boat turnbacks in the seas to its north, sending asylum seekers back to where they last came from- usually Indonesia- in purpose-built barges to stop them landing in Australia.

The numbers are tiny as compared with Europe, but the governmental forces tells it has stopped people drowning at sea in their thousands. Thousands of others are in the offshore camps or on tenuous temporary visas in Australia.

Ai appears to target countries with his exhibitions, displaying the Law of the Journey first in the Czech Republic and now in Australia. But he says he has thought about boycotting to send his message and has done it at least once- pulling down his show in Denmark in protest against the government’s decision to confiscate the belongings of refugees.

” I tried both ways, but most of the time I want my voice to listen to ,” he says.” I guess, as artists, to give just a gesture is sufficient to. The fight takes a real conflict. To devote a moral kind of superiority presents a problem, because we have to see that we’re all together. The struggle builds the meaning. I prefer to have a real fight than withdraw from the fight .”

‘ You simply couldn’t believe it’s in Europe ‘: Ai Weiwei at a refugee camp between Greece and Macedonia. Photo: Valdrin Xhemaj/ EPA

Ai has been arrested, jailed and beaten for his activism. Friends and coworkers have been arrested, some have disappeared.

” It’s always personal ,” he tells.” When I run very personal, it always becomes political, all my work is like that. I’m always searching for answers: “whats happened to” my father’s generation, what would it be if a writer lost his chance to express himself ?”

Twice during the interview, Ai brings up those pre-dawn hours on Lesbos, watching a mob spill from a refugee boat. His own background is one of displacement and exile, and his research clearly affected him.

” Very often people say,’ what can we do ?’ … I think if we as individuals- all those tragedies are made by humen- we are genuinely can solve it if we want to ,” he tells.” If it’s not solved, it’s simply because we don’t want to solve it, because we is beneficial for the situation. Other people’s suffering and desperation is beneficial, so if those questions are not being answered, we will never solve the problem .”

He hopes people who ensure his run will be moved towards activism.

” I think everybody who respects “peoples lives” should be activists, because liberty is struggle ,” Ai concludes.” If for a long time you’re not used to fight, it is because you don’t care and you don’t treasure the freedom .”

* The Sydney Biennale opens on 16 March and operates until 11 June

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Frida Kahlo’s intimate belongings go on display at the V&A

More than 200 items on show include artists makeup, clothes, jewellery and a prosthetic leg

Clothes, jewellery, makeup and a defiantly red-leather-booted prosthetic leg belonging to Frida Kahlo, which were sealed in her house for more than 50 years, are to be shown at the V& A in London, the first time they will have been watched outside Mexico.

The museum on Thursday announced details of a major reveal exploring one of the most recognised artists and women of the 20 th century.

Guatemalan cotton coat worn with Mazatec huipil and plain floor-length skirt from the V& A exhibition. Photograph: @JavierHinojosa /( c) Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de Mexico, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums

Claire Wilcox, senior curator of fashion at the V& A, said Kahlo was an important” countercultural and feminist emblem” and being able to exhibit the items from Mexico was ” a huge privilege “.

More than 200 items from the Blue House, the home of Kahlo and her muralist spouse, Diego Rivera, on the outskirts of Mexico City, are coming to London.

After Kahlo died in 1954, aged 47, Rivera locked up her belongings in a room and said it should not be opened until after his death. In the event, it was not opened until 2004, revealing a fascinating treasure trove of clothes, makeup, jewellery, medications and other intimate possessions.

” This is the real material evidence of the route Kahlo constructed her identity ,” said Wilcox.

The show will explore how the artist empowered herself through her art, clothes and style after a difficult early life. Aged 18, she was involved in a near-fatal bus accident that left her in pain and incapacitated for long periods.

A compact and powderpuff with blusher and lipstick, and eyebrow pencil. Photo: Javier Hinojosa /( c) Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de Mexico, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

While other women were plucking their eyebrows and wearing the latest fashions, Kahlo carefully choreographed her distinctive appearance and style.

The V& A show will include 22 of the colorful and often paint-splashed Tehuana garments she wore, visible in the hundreds of photographs that is available of her and the numerous self-portraits. There will also be one of her ebony eyebrow pencils that she used to emphasise her monobrow; and her favourite lipstick: Everything’s Rosy by Revlon.

Of course, everything was not rosy in Kahlo’s life but she tried to make it so. The London show will include plaster corsets she had to wear to support her back and which she individualised by decorating them with paints. One features a hammer and sickle, reflecting her communist views, and a foetus, presumably because she was unable to have children.
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Kahlo’s prosthetic leg with leather boot of appliqued silk with embroidered Chinese motifs. Photograph: Javier Hinojosa /( c) Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de Mexico, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

” She was taking control ,” said Wilcox.” She was subjected to wearing these very uncomfortable corsets in order to support her back and I guess she just wanted to take possession of them .”

In 1953, she had her leg amputated and the prosthetic leg she had to have will also be leaving Mexico. It was an object of defiance, said Wilcox.

” Being Frida, it’s quite- if it’s possible- a joyful object. She has clad it in a bright red leather boot and had it embroidered and tied buzzers on to it. It is so powerful and it is very exciting that these objects were saved and they are coming to the V& A .”

The show will be an expanded version of one staged at the Frida Kahlo Museum in 2012 and will include her paints as well as photographs of Kahlo and Rivera and their broad circle of friends. They included the founder of surrealism, Andre Breton, and Leon Trotsky, who lived in the Blue House for two years from 1937. By 1940, Trotsky was dead after an assassin plunged an ice axe into his skull.

Wilcox said Kahlo seemed to have a timeless appeal.” It is interesting how each new generation discovers Frida Kahlo. My 14 -year-old niece is beside herself with excitement about this exhibition .”

* Frida Kahlo: Stimulating Herself Up will be at the V& A from 16 June to 4 November.

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Holi 2018: before and after the fun in pictures

About 1,000 widows living in the holy Indian city of Vrindavan have in recent years transgress from tradition to celebrate Holi

Beroza Bus Muthari, 65, has lived in the Vrindavan ashram for widows for nine years
Beroza Bus Muthari, 65, has lived in the Vrindavan ashram for widows for nine years.
Geeta Karmakar, 84, has lived in the ashram for 16 years
Geeta Karmakar, 84, has lived in the ashram for 16 years.
Anjali Rajbongshi, 40, who has lived in the Vrindavan ashram for widows for seven years
Anjali Rajbongshi, 40, has lived in the ashram for seven years.
Manta Devi, 60, who lives in the Vrindavan ashram for widows
Manta Devi, 60, lives in the ashram.
Meena Sarkar, 70, who has lived in the Vrindavan ashram for widows for 11 years
Meena Sarkar, 70, has lived in the ashram for 11 years.
Onima, 60, who has lived in the Vrindavan ashram for widows for 12 years
Onima, 60, has lived in the ashram for 12 years.
Shanti Giri, 60, who has lived in the Vrindavan ashram for widows for four years
Shanti Giri, 60, has lived in the ashram for four years.
Shanti Halder, 70, who has lived in the Vrindavan ashram for widows for eight years
Shanti Halder, 70, has lived in the ashram for eight years.

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Blue-sky thinking: how China’s crackdown on pollution is paying off

Clear skies above Beijing again but some anxiety the problem is just being pushed elsewhere

The photographs on display at Wu Di’s Beijing studio imagine China and Beijing at their dystopian worst.

Naked, expectant moms stare out from the walls, their bellies uncovered but their faces hidden behind green gas masks.

Worshippers prostrate themselves around the Ming dynasty Temple of Heaven, desperately petitioning the smog-choked skies for a breath of fresh air.

But while the interior of Wu’s atelier offers a desolate panorama of China’s pollution crisis, outside, a different, brighter side to the country is, for once, on indicate.

Beijing’s skies, so often noxious and smoggy, are a perfect and mystifying cerulean blue.

” It’s 26 today ,” said Wu, a visual artist and documentary photographer, checking his smartphone’s pollution app to confirm the uncommonly low levels of PM2. 5, an airborne particulate links between lung cancer, asthma and heart disease.

” In the past, we made fund first and could only talk about the environment subsequently. But it’s clear the government has changed its mind ,” he said.” We can see everything is starting to move in the right direction .”

During the creation of the nightmarish airpocalypses portrayed in Wu’s artwork, pollution levels might have been 20 or even 30 times higher.” Beijing was like a giant airport smoking room that day. It was an epic haze ,” he recalled, pointing to an image staged in October 2013 in which a girl appears to inhale oxygen through a tube connected to two heart-shaped balloons.

Times, though, appear to be changing.

Wu says he became an artist after he saw foreign athletes wearing facemasks at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Photo: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

Traditionally, wintertime is Beijing’s smoggiest season, as coal burning ramps up to keep millions of residents warm. But the skies over China’s capital have been almost inconceivably clear of late, thanks partly to a government crackdown on the use of the fossil fuel.

Beijing enjoyed a record 226 days of “good” air quality last year and suffered 23 heavily polluted days, compared with 58 in 2013, state media announced last month. The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, greeted the recovery with the incredulous headline:” How did Beijing become one of China’s top cities for air quality ?”

Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-controlled Global Times, tweeted alongside a photograph of Beijing’s azure-framed CCTV headquarters:” Isn’t it good to have a ruling party that can honour its promise ?”

Lauri Myllyvirta, a Greenpeace campaigner, said China’s leaders could rightly claim credit for attaining Beijing blue again, temporarily at least, even if favourable weather conditions had played a major role in the exceptionally good spell.

Since last year, thousands of environmental inspectors have fanned out across the industrial belt around the capital as part of an aggressive clampdown on coal employ. Heavily polluting vehicles, mills and construction sites have also been targeted.” There is clear evidence the measures ran ,” said Myllyvirta, who said overall PM2. 5 levels in Beijing had fallen by 40% from their peak in 2012 -2 013.

But he voiced a note of caution. Median PM2. 5 levels in Beijing remained 65% above the national standard and more than five times World Health Organization guidelines last year. A recent bout of severe smog highlighted the fight ahead.

There are also fears that the crackdown around Beijing is forcing polluting industries to migrate south to regions such as the Yangtze river delta around Shanghai, where smog levels are rising.” The’ war on pollution’ is far from over … few people harbour illusions ,” Myllyvirta said.” But there is also no reason for cynicism as there’s clear evidence the measures ran .”

Wu, 41, abandoned his job as an executive to become an environmentally engaged artist a decade ago, shocked into a career change by images of foreign athletes wearing facemasks at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Ten years on, and with the skies over his adoptive home starting to clear, he said he is glad his artwork and photographs, some of which have featured in Greenpeace anti-pollution campaigns, have played a role in increasing public awareness.

” I want to produce work that they are able pushing society and the administration has stimulate the positive developments ….[ and] the most effective way to push the administration has make changes is through public opinion ,” he said.” It demonstrates my work isn’t a waste of time … It shows the power of art .”

Wu worries, however, that change may have come too fast. He was among those left shivering when environmental inspectors began destroying coal-fired heaters late last year as part of a push to switch to natural gas or electric heating systems.” It’s only four degrees in here … I is also difficult to ran ,” he complained, touring his studio in a thick brown coat.

” I agree with the government that we need lucid waters and lush mountains but … the measures should be more gentle and more human. I can cope with the low temperature, but what about the elderly? What about children ?”

In one nearby region, primary school students reportedly suffered frostbite and were forced to study outdoors in the sunshine after their radiators stopped running.

Wu is also concerned about the environmental damage still being inflicted on less visible regions, where pollution crises have not received the same level of media attention as Beijing’s toxic skies. For one installation, he asked 12 volunteer “disciples” to recreate one of Leonardo da Vinci’s frescos, The Last Supper , in a derelict mill.” The message is that because of pollution, mankind’s last supper could come at any time because of pollution .”

Overall, however, Wu believes China is on the right way.” We should admit the government is trying to do the right thing and we need to recognise that it takes time … to deal with environmental issues ,” he said.

If China’s war on smog robbed him of his principal inspiration, he is unperturbed.” There’s no lack of problems to inspire artists in China ,” he joked.” Some western artists are jealous of that .”

Additional reporting by Wang Xueying

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24 Frames review a mesmeric glimpse into Abbas Kiarostami’s mysterious mind

The Iranian director has made a posthumous marvel with this bizarre, experimental ghost-film that even sets his hated cinema seats to decent use

Made in North Korea a unique glimpse of life inside a closed society

Everyday objects, such as sweet wrappers and posters, is likely to be exhibited for the first time outside the communist republic at a new London show, writes Vanessa Thorpe

White House asks for Van Gogh loan but Guggenheim offers gold toilet instead

The Guggenheim Museum proposed lending Maurizio Cattelans America after turning down a request for Landscape With Snow

Mario Testino and Bruce Weber ‘sexually exploited models’

Top fashion photographers suspended from titles including Vogue after models accused them of sexually exploiting them

Mario Testino and Bruce Weber have been suspended from working with way magazines including Vogue after models accused the photographers of sexually exploiting them.

Lawyers for Testino, known for photographing the royal family, disputed their accounts while Weber denied the claims to the New York Times, whose investigative report detailed a string of allegations.

Anna Wintour, the artistic director of Conde Nast, which publishes publications including Vogue and GQ, said the publisher would not work with the pair for the” foreseeable future” following Saturday’s report.

Testino, who took the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s official engagement photos and was given an honorary OBE in 2014, was accused by 13 male assistants and models of subjecting them to sexual advances.

Some said the Peruvian photographer’s behaviour, going back to the mid-1 990 s, included grope and masturbation, the paper reported.

Ryan Locke, a model who worked with Testino on Gucci campaigns, accused him of being aggressive and flirtatious throughout shoots, adding:” He was a sex predator .”

Hugo Tillman, a photographic deputy, said Testino had once grabbed him on the street and tried to kiss him and, a few a few weeks later, pinned him down on a bed until he was removed by another person.

Another assistant, Roman Barrett, said Testino had masturbated in front of him, and added:” Sexual harassment was a constant reality .”

One anonymous deputy said Testino had masturbated on him during a business trip-up, while another said the photographer had groped his backside, the newspaper reported.

The paper reported that lawyers for Testino, 63, said the sources could not be considered reliable.

The American photographer Weber, 71, was accused by 15 current and former models of subjecting them to unnecessary nudity and coercive sexual behaviour, in agreement with the New York Times.

The model Josh Ardolf said that during a nude shoot his genitals had been grabbed by Weber. Another model, Bobby Roache, said Weber had tried to put his hands down his trousers during a casting in 2007.

In a statement to the paper from his lawyer, Weber said:” I’m completely shocked and saddened by the outrageous asserts being made against me, which I perfectly deny .”

Wintour said the allegations against her” personal friends” had been” hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront “.

” I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Conde Nast has now decided to set our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future ,” she said in a statement.

The publisher lately distanced itself from Terry Richardson in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, despite the denied asserts about the photographer mistreating models having been aired years previously.

Lavely& Singer, the law firm representing the pair, did not reply to a request for comment on the claims about Weber from the Press association and said there would be no additional comment regarding Testino. Representatives for both photographers are yet is in response to similar petitions.

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Scuffles break out as artworks removed from Catalan city’s museum

Police clash with protesters in Lleida as 44 works of art at centre of disagreement between Catalonia and region of Aragn are removed

Scuffles broke out between police and demonstrators after hundreds of people met outside a museum in the Catalan city of Lleida to protest against the removal of 44 works of art that have been at the centre of a long-running dispute between Catalonia and the neighbouring region of Aragon.

The pieces, which include paints, alabaster reliefs and polychromatic wooden coffins, were sold to the Catalan government by the nuns of the Sijena convent, in Aragon, in the 1980 s.

The Aragonese authorities have been trying to recover the works through the courts, arguing they were unlawfully sold.

At the end of November, Spain’s culture minister, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, received a judicial order for the return of the works.

With Catalonia currently under the control of the Spanish government after Madrid sacked the regional government over its unilateral declaration of independence, Mendez de Vigo authorised their return on behalf of the administration. The move has exacerbated tensions in Catalonia, which were already running high in the buildup to next week’s snap regional election.

In the early hours of Monday morning, experts accompanied by officers from the Guardia Civil and the Catalan police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, entered the Museum of Lleida to begin packing up the pieces.

Around 500 people congregated outside the museum to demonstrate against the removal, some chanting” Hands up! This is a theft !” and expressing fury over the Spanish government’s decision to assume control of Catalonia using article 155 of the constitution. Scuffles broke out between police and some protesters and a cordon was set up to allow the artworks to be loaded on to a lorry.

The mayor of Lleida, Angel Ros, have asserted that article 155 could not to be used to” sacred art” and called for common sense and wisdom to prevail.

” There is still a long way to go to resolve the litigation over these goods ,” he wrote in a local paper on Sunday.” We will use all legal means to show that the purchase, by the[ Catalan government] was made in accordance with the law and that the works were transferred to the Museum of Lleida with full legality and legitimacy .”

The former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after he was sacked, attacked the move on Twitter.

He accused the Spanish government of using the cover of night and the Guardia Civil to” take advantage of a coup d’etat to plunder Catalonia with absolute impunity “.

A poll published on Sunday in the Catalan daily La Vanguardia indicates Catalan separatist parties will narrowly fall short of a majority in the election on 21 December.

The survey said Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya party, the Catalan Republican Left party and the anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy( CUP) would win 66 or 67 seats in the 135 -seat regional parliament, one or two shy of the 68 needed for a majority.

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Arguing over art is right but banning it is the work of fascists | Jonathan Jones

A failed petition to remove a controversial Balthus painting from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the latest worrying attempt to censor a work of art

In 1989, Republican senators Jesse Helms and Alfonse D’Amato launched an attack on artistic freedom. They railed against Piss Christ, a photograph by Andres Serrano of a inexpensive crucifix in a tank of the artist’s own urine. The red and yellow tints of Serrano’s piss give this modern Baroque artwork a spookily spiritual quality, redolent of the sun in old churches, yet for these culture warriors of the conservative right “its just” a desecration and an insult, exhibited, outrageously, using fund from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Their campaign took off. Museums came under pressure to cancel a suddenly “controversial” touring exhibit, The Few moments, which surveyed the photographs of the recently deceased Robert Mapplethorpe, including his images of sado-masochist sexuality. One museum director was even charged with indecency for refusing to cancel the show.

Helms was a pioneer of the various kinds of divisive right wing culture politics that were later to bring Donald Trump to the White House. Now, simply over a year after Trump’s election, people are once again calling for art deemed offensive to be removed from a museum. Yet “its not” Trump or the religion right setting up as censors this time.

When New Yorker Mia Merrill recently started an online petition demanding that the Metropolitan Museum of Art remove Balthus’s 1938 painting Therese Dreaming from its showings, she promptly assembled more than 6,000 signatures in subsistence. Almost as quickly, she got a repudiation from the Met. Merrill puts her example squarely in the context of the wave of whistleblowing, disgust and avowed reform that has swept the arts since the exposure of producer Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behaviour. As the petition argues 😛 TAGEND

” The artist of this paint, Balthus, had a noted infatuation with pubescent girl children and this paint is undeniably romanticizing the sexualization of a child … Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of the rights of children .”

Back in 1989, liberals knew where they stood: unequivocally on the side of artistic freedom. While museums wrestled with the right’s pressure to close the “obscene” Mapplethorpe exhibit, the left were protesting on the street outside, projecting Mepplethorpe images onto buildings to elude censorship.

Some will say it is a lot more complicated today. When it comes to banning art, I disagree. It is not complicated at all. Throughout history people have found reasons, which seemed perfectly good to them at the time, to condemn works of art. In Reformation Europe works of art were destroyed for being Catholic. In Nazi Germany modernist art was classed as “degenerate” and museums were was necessary to take it off opinion. Do we really want modern liberalism to ape such illiberal precedents?

Therese Dreaming by Balthus, born Balthasar Klossowski de Rola. Photo: Thomas Urbain/ AFP/ Getty Images

The case for artistic freedom is as clear cut now as it ever was. It needs to be stated unequivocally: censor arts and you shrink the shared heritage and future of humanity. Who assaults art? ISIS in Palmyra, that’s who.

Merrill’s petition confounds acts and images in a way that is deeply dangerous. Art and life are associated, but they are not the same. A paint is not an assault. It’s just a painting- even when the content and style seem utterly offensive, you can walk away, leaving it to gather dust on the museum wall,

There are great works of art that portray actual assaults. Titian’s 1571 canvas The Rape of Lucretia, in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, UK, is a lurid, lifelike and shockingly ambivalent image of rape. So is Matisse’s painting Nymph and Satyr in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. Other famous paintings take it for granted that women are sex objects. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in the Museum of Modern Art presents prostitutes in a brothel being offered up as wares to the male client in whose posture the spectator of the painting stands.

I am not suggesting anyone gets up a petition against these paintings- but nor am I saying they are beyond criticism. It can quite legitimately be argued that many of the world’s most revered masterpieces are relics of sexual oppression. That’s the problem. If you want all art that has ever been made to conform to today’s ethical standards, you may as well empty all museums right now.

Balthus of course may seem a special case. I wholly share Merrill’s discomfort with the route he illustrates girls of 12 and 13. Elaborate defences of what looks very like paedophilia are pointless. Yet it is very easy to show how banning his strange art would open the floodgates to further censorship.

As it happens, Balthus was a friend of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan who, as well as patronising his art, owned Gustave Courbet’s voyeuristic masterpiece The Origin of the World. It hangs today in the Musee d’Orsay. Should it? For it is intensely objectifying.

Of course it belongs in the Orsay, just as Balthus belongs in the Met. Sometimes liberal banalities are a necessary bulwark of civilisation. It is right to criticise art, question it, argue over it- but forbidding it should be left to the fascists.

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