April 26, 2017; ArtNet News, “Art World”
As we know, museums have been very active in experimenting with social media to expand their reach and the public’s interest in art. Those efforts have been largely successful, but sometimes the very new gets tripped up by the old, and so it is in this story—but here, the old is represented by Instagram.
When Instagram censored photographs from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ photographic exhibition of “abstracted nudes” by Imogen Cunningham, the museum decided to fight—but it’s hard to fight someone who won’t answer you.
“We [contacted both Facebook and Instagram] and said we’re a verified fine arts museum, and we wanted to have a discussion with Facebook and Instagram about their community standards,” MFA public relations director Karen Frascona told the Boston Globe. “We didn’t really get a response.”
Photography curator Karen Haas says, about the exhibition, “Imogen Cunningham: In Focus,” “These images are so subtle and beautiful and so abstract. They’re all about shapes—about turning the body into something that’s really confounding and difficult even to read as a body.”
It does not sound all that sordid, but Instagram’s community guidelines read, “We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram.” Although “nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK.”
Seems like a nitpicky kind of distinction. According to Frascona, the museum is trying to organize a larger approach to Facebook and Instagram “about incorporating photography into their exceptions.”
Haas sees the whole thing as part of a larger issue, commenting, “That we’re still fighting the fight for photography to be a work of art is [incredible].”—Ruth McCambridge