The National Gallery of Art has canceled two upcoming exhibitions in the wake of sexual harassment and assault allegations leveled against the artists. The museum was slated to open a solo exhibition on Chuck Close in mid-May and another solo exhibition dedicated to the work of photographer Thomas Roma in September.
The Washington Post reports that the NGA made the decision to cancel both exhibitions in early January, the “first time the gallery has canceled exhibitions because of public allegations against the featured artists.” In an email to the Post, a representative for the National Gallery told the newspaper that the decision was discussed both artists who agreed “that it is not the appropriate time to present these installations.”
Both Close and Roma have both been accused of a wide range of sexual misconduct. In mid-December and early January, numerous women told both the Huff Post, the New York Times, and the arts website Hyperallergic that Close, a well-established, influential artist, had sexually harassed them during portrait sessions—including unwanted touching and making sexually explicit comments, both violating the norms of studio modeling. Close has denied the reports. “Last time I looked, discomfort was not a major offense,” Close told the New York Times in late December. “I never reduced anyone to tears, no one ever ran out of the place. If I embarrassed anyone or made them feel uncomfortable, I am truly sorry, I didn’t mean to. I acknowledge having a dirty mouth, but we’re all adults.”
Close’s NGA exhibition, In the Tower: Chuck Close, was slated to show 30 of his works, largely drawn from the museum’s permanent collection. Artnet notes that references to the exhibition have been removed from the NGA’s website.
Likewise, the Roma exhibition was also to be drawn from the NGA’s collection (making it easier to replace with another in-house exhibition), and would have shown 87 of his photographs that the NGA acquired in November, shortly before the former Columbia University professor was accused of sexual misconduct by five former students. Like Close, Roma is influential in the field, with solo exhibitions at both the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography under his belt. Roman, who retired from Columbia in January, has denied the allegations against him. Through his lawyer, the photographer that four of the accusers had “created fictitious versions of reality that are libelous.”
The museum has not yet announced what will replace the two exhibitions.