As Trial Looms Over Courbet Nude, Facebook Censors Copenhagen's Mermaid, Philadelphia's Pop Art

  • February 14, 2016 23:51

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Evelyne Axell, Ice Cream, (1964). Collection of Serge Goisse, Belgium © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
(Photo: Philadelphia Museum of Art via Facebook)

An appeals court in France has ruled that a lawsuit brought against Facebook by a Parisian teacher can move forward. The ruling comes after recent uproar over Facebook's censorship of art images, including an iconic statue and a Pop Art piece on view at major museums.

Facebook suspended the account of Frederic Durand-Baissas, 57, five years ago, after he posted a photo of Gustave Courbet's "The Origin of the World," the seminal painting from 1866 that depicts lady parts.

Durand-Baissas seeks 20,000 euros ($22,550) in damages and wants his account reactivated by the social media giant.


"This is a case of free speech and censorship on a social network," Durand-Baissas told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "If (Facebook) can't see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France (can)."
California-based Facebook has revised its "Community Standards" in the past five years to include the statement: "We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures." 
Yet, on Feb. 5, when the Philadelphia Museum of Art posted Belgian artist Evelyne Axell’s 1964 painting Ice Cream on its Facebook page, the image was removed. The work shows a woman licking an ice cream cone, which Facebook deemed as “containing excessive amounts of skin or suggestive content”. Axell's painting later returned to the page. It is part of the popular traveling exhibition "International Pop," on view at the museum starting Feb. 24.
The museum added this description to the post:
“Ice Cream” (1964) was painted by Evelyne Axell, one of the first female Pop artists. Her work can be understood as a critique of mainstream Pop Art, in which women were often depicted as passive, decorative objects. In contrast, Axell sought to depict active, confident women who pursue satisfaction on their own terms—such as the protagonist of “Ice Cream,” who unabashedly enjoys her dessert. Axell’s provocative paintings challenge artistic conventions while also exhibiting a liberated, playful spirit characteristic of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
Last month, Facebook censored a photo of Copenhagen's beloved "Little Mermaid" statue, for nudity.

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