Art Basel removes part of Andrea Bowers's work in Unlimited

Bowers honours request by alleged harassment survivor who says she did not give permission for her image to be included in the piece

Andrea Bowers’s Open Secret I and II installation on show at Art Basel's Unlimited sector © David Owens

Andrea Bowers’s Open Secret I and II installation on show at Art Basel's Unlimited sector © David Owens

A panel from Andrea Bowers’s Open Secret installation in Art Basel’s Unlimited sector has been removed. The decision was prompted by a woman who said she was unaware that images of her were used in the work.

The panel featured an image of a tweet shared by Helen Donahue, a Los Angeles-based digital media strategist and writer, that included photos of bruises on her face and torso that she claims were inflicted by Michael Hafford, a former contributor to the magazine and website Vice who was accused of assault by four women.

Bowers’s installation includes red panels outlining around 200 sexual harassment allegations—along with official statements from the accused—that came to light through the #MeToo movement and were catalogued by the artist and her team of collaborators.

Donahue tweeted on Tuesday that Bowers had not sought her permission to use the image, posting: “Cool that my fucking photos and trauma are heading art basel thx for exploiting us for ‘art’.” She also claimed that she only found out about her inclusion in the installation when she saw the work on Instagram. In a later tweet, she called on her social media followers to email Gianni Jetzer, the Unlimited curator, telling him that she wanted her images removed. Donahue had not responded to a request for comment as we went to press.

Yesterday, Art Basel removed the panel on which Donahue was featured from the installation and Bowers issued an apology. “I should have asked for her consent,” the artist says, adding that she has reached out privately to Donahue, “and am very much looking forward to listening”.

The artist’s representing galleries involved with the production of the work—Andrew Kreps, Kaufmann Repetto, Vielmetter Los Angeles and Capitain Petzel—also issued an apology to Donahue, noting that they “stand by Andrea Bowers and her work and support the conversation that has only just begun”.


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