Sexual harassment

National Gallery of Art postpones Chuck Close and Thomas Roma shows following sexual misconduct allegations

But the exhibitions are not cancelled, the museum says

A visitor at the preview for the exhibition Self Portraits by Chuck Close: From Selfie to Self-Expression at the Saatchi Gallery, London Rex Features via AP Images

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, has indefinitely postponed its exhibition of work by Chuck Close that was slated for the spring, citing allegations of sexual misconduct that surfaced around the photorealist painter in December. The exhibition, In the Tower: Chuck Close, which was to include some 30 works by the 77-year-old, was planned to take over the museum’s Tower Three gallery in its East Building in May.

Close is best known for his intimate and expressive portraiture, and his subjects have included celebrities, fellow artists and US presidents. Late last year, several women who modelled for Close came forward to accuse the painter of exploiting and verbally harassing them. In an interview with The New York Times, Close denied most of the allegations, saying “discomfort was no major offense”. He added: “I’ve been such a supporter of women and women artists. I’ve done nothing wrong and I’m being crucified.”

Close’s exhibition is not the only one to have been temporarily axed. The photographer Thomas Roma’s show of work documenting African-American churches in Brooklyn, scheduled for September, has also been postponed for the same reason. This month, former students of the photographer, both from the School of Visual Arts and Columbia University, accused Roma of sexual misconduct. He has since announced his retirement as director of the photography department at Columbia’s School of the Arts.

The National Gallery’s head of communications, Anabeth Guthrie, emphasised that the museum had not “cancelled” the exhibitions, as some media reports had initially indicated. “We have great respect for [both artists’] work. Given the recent attention on their personal lives, we discussed postponement of the installations with each artist,” she says. “All parties involved acknowledged that it is not the appropriate time to present these installations. The decisions to postpone the installations were made soon after learning of the circumstances and consulting with the artists.”