Paris museum files complaint over MeToo graffiti on nude painting

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The women have been charged with spraying the words “MeToo” on “The Origin of the World”, a nude painted by French artist Courbet, and four other works.

The 1866 painting was on loan from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris to the Pompidou-Metz in the northeastern city of Metz. It was protected by a glass pane on which the words were scrawled.

“Stained with red paint, the work was taken down for examination by a qualified restorer. The frame has received numerous splashes of paint that could have lasting marks even after restoration,” the Musee d’Orsay said in a statement, adding that it had “filed a complaint”.

The museum said the painting would not return to the Metz exhibition that closes in May.

Metz prosecutor Yves Badorc said five works had been sprayed with the words “MeToo” and one was stolen.

French-Luxembourg performance artist Deborah de Robertis told AFP she organised the operation carried out 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, one woman tagged Courbet’s work with red paint and then a second sprays another. They then chant “MeToo” before being dragged away by security guards.

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

De Robertis said they had also seized an embroidery work by French artist Annette Messager as “reappropriation”.

The prosecutor said a third person — who was not arrested — could have been behind the disappearance of the 1991 Messager work titled “I Think Therefore I Suck”.

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De Robertis has a work on display at the venue in Metz — a photograph of a 2014 performance at the Musee d’Orsay in which she posed naked underneath Courbet’s painting.

A French court in 2020 ordered de Robertis to pay a €2,000 ($2,150) fine for appearing naked in 2018 in Lourdes in southwest France, a Catholic pilgrimage site for those who believe the Virgin Mary appeared there.

She has also shown herself naked in front of the “Mona Lisa” painting at the Louvre in Paris.

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