October 5, 2015; Boston Globe
Matthew Teitelbaum, the new director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, has been trying to impress on everyone what a hip and happening leader he intends to be—for instance, tweeting his first 100 days in the role and making statements like, “I think what is missing is in a truly accessible institution, there are the voices of many. We need more external voices to engage people and get them to think about the art differently.” But can he really hear the voices of these people?
It was a small but fed up gang of protesters that gathered in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on Monday of this week, holding signs and chanting their outrage. The signs read “God Hates Renoir” and “Treacle Harms Society,” and the chants reflected the distress of the small but dedicated group: “Put some fingers on those hands! Give us work by Paul Gauguin!” and “Other art is worth your while! Renoir paints a steaming pile!”
The group’s Instagram site, Renoir-sucks-at-painting, explains that the event was organized by a grassroots group for cultural justice. Craig Ronan, an artist from Somerville, joined as a fellow traveler. “I don’t have any relationship with these people,” he said, “aside from wanting artistic justice.” A statement on the site quotes Dr. Ben Ewan-Campen, an evolutionary biologist from Harvard University, decrying Renoir’s “pink fuzzy women and scary-looking babies,” saying they detract from the overall collection. Attorney Marjorie Suisman adds, “The food equivalent of a Renoir is a Twinkie—fluffy, empty calories that are way too sweet, and ultimately bad for you. Twinkies do not belong in our fine art museum.”
The group’s demand was simple: Take down the Renoirs and replace them with something good.
The group has also petitioned President Obama to de-hang Reniors from our nation’s museums, saying that the “treacly, puerile paintings” have had deleterious effects on our nation. The petition adds, “Any ‘fine’ art worthy of its name imparts on its viewer emotional force and inspiration. The time has come for we, as a nation, with grim resolve, to recognize Renoir’s utter failure in these regards. We call on the President to take proactive steps to correct the historical mistake.”
No Tweets from Teitelbaum as we go to press, though we think he should thank these guys for their sincere interest in the institution and the well-being of the public.—Ruth McCambridge