Tuesday, 17 January 2012

En lingerie au Musée d'Orsay

The video of three attractive young ladies walking through the Impressionist galleries of the Musee d'Orsay last month in their firm's lingerie has caused quite a bit of controversy in France. The main cause of the fuss is that (allegedly) the event was videorecorded without getting the museum's permission (the Museum does not allow photography of its collections).

As Art Info recounts:
The clip shows three women in trench coats standing in front of the Musée d'Orsay’s Impressionist collection. The women suddenly strip down to their underwear and strut in front of the stunned — but clearly amused — spectators before running for the exit. The stunt could have been a refreshing piece of guerrilla performance art if it hadn’t been constructed solely as a big-money advertising blitz. [...] The Musée d'Orsay administration didn’t find any humor in the happening. "I am in charge of filming [in the museum]; such a scenario could never have been accepted, it's unimaginable," Amélie Hardivillier, the museum's communications director, told Libération. According to Le Figaro, Musée d'Orsay president Guy Cogeval plans to write to Etam's C.E.O. to demand that the link to the video be removed from the company's Web site and all other platforms — or else the museum's legal department will take action. Etam's viral video has not been good for the museum's reputation, with many bloggers assuming that the shoot had the institution's seal of approval.

I have two questions, first of all the stunt is not exactly what one might term "indecent", the onlookers seem amused (bemused) rather than shocked, and it seems to have been filmed in natural light. So I cannot see why Ms Hardivillier would have refused permission - provided the requisite fee was paid (and here is the key to the issue perhaps). If no damage is done to the artworks themselves or their setting then why can they not figure in ephemeral advertising as just one of the social spheres in which they function in the consciousness of modern society? They are not holy relics.

Secondly, one might wonder how in a packed gallery somebody can pull out an unauthorised professional video camera (probably a relatively big one for that quality of photography) and calmly film the girls visiting the museum (dressed) and why when the whole team is parading and prancing around (undressed) and then running right through the museum, not a single security guard or gallery superintendent is in sight anywhere to even admonish them, let alone stop the unauthorised activities. This is a major museum, in the gallery containing a major collection of impressionist art, and nobody is there supervising the crowd? Incroyable.

Or is the Museum's pretended indignation part of the publicity stunt?

And what happened to the trench coats?

Vignette: edited screen capture from You Tube version of video produced by lingerie firm in question

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