Manchester Art Gallery removes painting ‘to challenge Victorian fantasies’


Manchester Art Gallery has removed JW Waterhouse’s Pre-Raphaelite fantasy Hylas and the Nymphs and left a temporary space in Gallery 10 to ‘prompt conversation about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection.’

The painting has been removed to challenge perceptions of female beauty.

“This gallery presents the female body as either a ‘passive decorative form’ or a ‘femme fatale’,” writes curator Clare Gannaway on the Manchester Art Gallery website.

“Let’s challenge this Victorian fantasy! The gallery exists in a world full of intertwined issues of gender, race, sexuality and class which affect us all. How could artworks speak in more contemporary, relevant ways?”

A film of the removal of the painting will be part of a forthcoming exhibition by a contemporary artist at the gallery.

Publicity stunt or faux pas?

As a publicity stunt it was brilliant, getting lots of publicity for the exhibition.

As a faux pas it was huge, provoking lots of animosity on social media and the gallery’s website, where the comments are overwhelmingly negative.

Ms Gannaway has denied it’s an act of censorship and merely wants to stimulate debate.

So for what it’s worth, here’s our contribution to the debate.

Don’t remove works of art from art galleries just because they offend some people’s sensibilities. Just don’t look at them.

Remove bad works of art instead. Why not start with the Banksy?

Sign the petition to have the painting restored here.

Brilliant publicity stunt or a massive faux pas? You decide.

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