Before Facebook censors us, we’ll do it ourselves
Swedish photography gallery is latest to cover up explicit work
By Clemens Bomsdorf. Museums, Issue 227, September 2011
Published online: 15 September 2011
Fotografiska, the Swedish-based photography museum, says that it has been forced to censor images on its Facebook pages to avoid them being deleted by the social-media giant.
The museum, which is devoted to contemporary photography, is showing 200 works by Robert Mapplethorpe (until 2 October). His oeuvre presents difficulties because of its focus on the nude; according to the museum’s spokesman, Facebook “dislikes nakedness whether it is in paintings or photography”.
Fotografiska shows works by many challenging contemporary artists. “We do not warn people about entering certain rooms, but they have titles such as ‘Nude’ and ‘Sex’. We even show erect penises, but from an artistic point of view,” he said.
To promote its Mapplethorpe show, the museum is showing works on the website depicting nudity, but with the offending areas of the body covered by blue rectangles and white lettering–an obvious reference to Facebook’s corporate colours and logo. The text reads “Facebook-friendly square”.
The move was partly to stop Facebook removing the images, but also “to trigger a debate”. The museum spokesman said that Facebook had twice deleted uncensored photographs by Helmut Newton and Mapplethorpe from the page www.facebook.com/fotografiska. Upon joining the site, Facebook users agree that they “will not post content that is hateful, threatening, or pornographic… or contains nudity”.
Fotografiska, an independent museum which opened in May 2010, attracted 370,000 paying visitors in its first year. “Facebook is our most important marketing channel,” the spokesman said. By the end of last month, around 115,000 people had pressed the “like” button on its Facebook page.
Sweden’s Nationalmuseum recently posted paintings of a woman’s naked breasts on its Facebook page, but a spokeswoman said that it had not had any images deleted.
Facebook says that it deletes images only if it receives complaints from users. It does not routinely check the millions of pictures posted on its site.
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