by Annika Backe
November 19, 2015 – So far, it is only a handful of people but they are growing in number: equipped with protest signs, they rally in front of venerable New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and shout battle cries. They form part of a group which considers the works of one of the greatest artists of European Impressionist style appalling and wants them removed from museums: Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photograph: Arad / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
Usually, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is a dignified and solemn place. Opened in 1872, it is one of the world’s leading museums, attracting more than three million visitors each year. The Drawings and Prints collection is particularly well-frequented. The works of all great European artists are hanging side by side. One such artist is French Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), whose works, however, are currently under heavy fire of a group that calls itself “Renoir sucks at painting” (RSAP).
One of the works which members of RSAP disapprove of: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “Bather Drying her Right Leg”, ca. 1910. Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo.
One might think that every visitor is entitled to form his or her own opinion. The members of the RSAP movement, on the other hand, see their aesthetic feelings so strongly disturbed that they demand museums to remove the relevant paintings. They think that the art of Renoir would best be placed in a “Museum of Bad Taste”. As a matter of fact, such a museum indeed exists. It is located in Massachusetts and is said to have already shown interest in acquiring some of the Renoir paintings RSAP disapproves of.
The Metropolitan Museum has not seriously considered removing or selling a single Renoir painting as yet. It keeps cool and collected about the movement which has already attracted the interest of such distinguished journals as Parisian Le Monde. Some Renoir lovers, in contrast, are not this relaxed: referring to the slogan that was coined in the aftermath of the attack on French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in January 2015, they hold signs saying “Je suis Pierre-Auguste.”
It seems safe to assume that RSAP will soon stop laying siege on the Metropolitan Museum and turn to other museums instead. The Met very likely looks forward to that day – after having been pleased about the additional visitors which came to the museum to see for themselves what the terrorism against good taste was all about.