Don't Grope the Art! Crowd Gets Touchy with MoMa Live Nudes

Museum to patrons: Hands off!

Friday, Apr 16, 2010  |  Updated 4:56 PM PDT
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Nude models that are part of an art exhibit at the <a title=MoMA are complaining that patrons are touching them inappropriately. Not cool, says the museum." />

Nude models that are part of an art exhibit at the MoMA are complaining that patrons are touching them inappropriately. Not cool, says the museum.

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Museum patrons know that touching the art is a no-no — and that means live, naked performers too.

Several nude models who are featured in Marina Abramovic's new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art have complained of being groped by some patrons. The museum has declined to talk about specific incidents, but acknowledged that it has had problems with some visitors touching performers.

"We are well aware of the challenges posed by having nude performers in the galleries," the museum said in a statement. "Any visitor who improperly touches or disturbs any of the performers is escorted from the museum by MoMA security."

One performer, Will Rawls, told The New York Times that a patron brushed his hand chest and back "and then touched my butt."

"As he was passing me he looked me in the eyes and said 'You feel good, man,'" Rawls said.

Rawls said he notified a security guard and later learned that the man's 30-year membership was revoked.

Despite the incidents, all the performers said they enjoyed what they are doing, though some visitors have expressed discomfort.

The exhibition, which opened March 14, includes nude performers standing in a narrow doorway facing each other as visitors squeeze between them. Elsewhere, two clothed people touch fingertips, two others sit back to back with their hair entwined and a naked woman reclines with a skeleton (not a real one) on top of her.

The Yugoslavian-born Abramovic, 63, is a performance art grande dame who has pushed the limits of physical endurance since the late 1960s.

In front of audiences, she has taken medication that made her lose consciousness, and stabbed herself repeatedly in the left hand.

The exhibit is called "Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present" — and she is. Abramovic sits on silent display while the museum is open. Members of the public are invited to join her, silently, across a small table.

The exhibition presents a view of Abramovic's career over four decades and her work in a variety of mediums, including performance art, installations, sound pieces, video works and photographs. It runs through May 31.

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