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In art, #MeToo movement shows limits of 'star system' approach

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Jeff Tyson

After renowned artist Chuck Close was accused of sexual harassment, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC cancelled an exhibition featuring his work. But that shouldn’t be the end of the story according to a Cornell University art historian.

Andrew Moisey

Assistant professor of art history and visual studies

Andrew Moisey is an assistant professor of art history and visual studies at Cornell. He says museums and art galleries – traditionally plagued by a ‘star system’ mentality - can take away a powerful lesson from the #MeToo movement — invest in the art, not the artist.

Moisey says:

“If galleries and museums critically exhibited the history and power of art instead of celebrating individual artists, then #MeToo wouldn't have them in hot water. Museums and galleries, like Hollywood, believe in a star system. Big names are the easiest way to attract big crowds. Being conceptually adventurous and showcasing a variety of artists is riskier, more expensive, and requires difficult scholarship.

“Celebrating the work of a single personality is an easy exhibition, but it means you might end up hitching your cart to a sick horse. The National Gallery participated in the cult of personality, so in my view it can thank itself for its current problems, and should think about the fact that this cult is why so many powerful men have gotten away with such awful behavior.”

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