Facebook ‘bans promotion of art exhibition with naked statues’

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A Geneva art museum says Facebook has prohibited it from promoting an upcoming exhibition with images of two statues — a half-naked Venus and a nude, kneeling man.

The Museum of Art and History took to Twitter to say it had wanted to post pictures of the statues on Facebook to promote the Caesar And The Rhone exhibit that opens on Friday, but the social media platform “prevented us from it, because of their nudity”.

The museum instead put the images on Twitter with the French word for “censored” over the statues’ private parts, adding: “Maybe it’s time that this platform changes its policy for museums and cultural institutions?”

The three and a half-month exhibit pulls together works from the Louvre Museum in Paris, an antiquities museum in Arles, France, and other institutions to convey Caesar’s invasion of the Rhone River region running through Geneva and south-east France to the Mediterranean.

The marble statue of Venus of Arles was made in the first century and depicts the goddess posed with one arm outstretched and a robe draped around her waist.

The first-century BC bronze of a bearded captive shows him with his hands seemingly bound behind his back, symbolising Rome’s triumph over Gallic tribes.

Museum of Art and History spokeswoman Sylvie Treglia-Detraz said a first attempt to post the images drew a Facebook response: “We don’t allow ads that depict nudity, even if it isn’t sexual in nature.

“This includes the use of nudity for artistic or educational purposes.”

EDITOR’S OPINION – Facebook’s decision not to allow the depiction of classical nude statues strikes at the heart of the cultural differences between Europe and the US. It shows once again how these social media giants generally seek to enforce US moral values on the rest of the world, even in the case of classic works of art. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised given that in the US government officials have been known to cover up topless statues while in Europe nude beaches and parks are not unusual. However, if they employed people – rather than algorithms – to make decisions, these social media companies might be able to take a more common sense and culturally appropriate approach.

Chris Price
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