Art Market

Facebook censored images of two Roman nudes posted by a museum.

Wallace Ludel
Feb 5, 2019 5:05PM, via AP

A bronze sculpture from the first century B.C.E. that was recently censored by Facebook. Photo by ho visto nina volare, via Wikimedia Commons.

When Geneva’s Museum of Art and History tried to promote its upcoming show, “Caesar and the Rhone,” with images of two sculptures—a marble statue of a semi-nude Venus and a bronze of a nude man—they were met with the following message from Facebook: “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.”

The museum instead opted to upload the images to Twitter with the word “censuré” (French for “censored”) obstructing the marble sculpture’s breasts and the bronze’s crotch. Accompanying the image, the museum wrote: “Maybe it’s time that this platform changes its policy for museums and cultural institutions?”

One of the censored sculptures, the Venus of Arles, was carved from marble in the first century C.E. and depicts the goddess Venus with a robe around her waist and one arm outstretched. The other sculpture dates back to the first-century B.C.E. and depicts a captive of war with his hands bound behind his back. The antiquity of the sculptures no doubt heightens the absurdity of Facebook’s actions.

This is hardly the social network’s first act of overzealous nude art censorship. Last summer, it censored a series of art historical nudes that were featured in an advertising campaign for Flanders; and in November, the platform ousted an art historian over his photo of a hyperrealist sculpture of a nude woman by John De Andrea. Facebook even ended up on trial in France for flagging a photo of Gustave Courbet’s infamous L’Origine du Monde (1866).

Wallace Ludel