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Gustave Courbet’s ‘L’origine du monde’ spray-painted with the slogan ‘MeToo’

10 May 2024

A group of feminist activists spray-painted Gustave Courbet’s painting L’origine du monde (1866) with the slogan ‘MeToo’ last weekend. The work, which is owned by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris but is currently on display at an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, is a detailed depiction of a woman’s vulva. The painting is protected by glass. The Luxembourgish artist Deborah de Robertis has since claimed responsibility for the action, which she has titled On ne sépare pas la femme de l’artiste (‘The woman cannot be separated from the artist’) and which also involved the defacement of four other works on show. These included a photograph of the artist performing her own work Mirror of Origin (2014), which consisted of her sitting naked underneath L’origine du monde. Two women were arrested after the tagging, and French culture minister Rachida Dati denounced the stunt, writing on Twitter that ‘an artwork is not a poster to be coloured in with today’s message’.

This Friday, two Just Stop Oil activists attempted to smash the glass case protecting the Magna Carta at the British Library. The Reverend Sue Parfitt, and Judy Bruce, a retired biology teacher, both in their eighties, took to the casing with a hammer and chisel, then held up a sign reading ‘The government is breaking the law’ and glued their hands to the display. The action comes a week after the High Court ruled for the second time that the UK government’s climate strategy is unlawfully inadequate. The British Library holds two of the four surviving copies of the document, which was issued in 1215 and established the principle that king and government are subject to the law. Both activists are currently in police custody.

The Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS) at Bard College in New York state is to undergo a $10m extensionThe development will add 12,000 square feet of space to the CCS’s library and archives, doubling their current area and providing the CCS with storage space for an extra 30,000 volumes, as well as a new classroom, a study room and a larger reading room. The extension, which is due to be completed towards the end of next year, will be named the Keith Haring Wing in light of a $3m contribution from the artist’s foundation.

Two pieces of 3,000-year-old gold jewellery have been stolen from Ely Museum. Thieves broke into the building early on Tuesday morning and stole a torc and a bracelet that date to the Bronze Age. The torc, which the museum acquired in 2017, is believed to be one of the longest and heaviest ever found in Britain – it has been described as the museum’s ‘most prized object’. The two burglars were captured on CCTV, footage of which has been circulated by Cambridgeshire Police, and are believed to have escaped on e-scooters. The museum was closed to visitors shortly after the break-in but reopened to the public this Friday.

A former Byzantine church regarded by some as the ‘Sistine Chapel of Istanbul’ has this week reopened as a mosque. The UNESCO-protected Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, which since the early 16th century was used as a mosque, was designated as a museum in 1945 by the secular Turkish government on account of the building’s exquisite Christian devotional frescoes and mosaics. In 2019 the Turkish Council of State reversed the Church’s museum status, ordering its reconversion to a mosque, and the building has now been officially opened for Muslim prayers after four years of restoration work. The reconsecration is part of a larger project undertaken by President Erdogan’s government, which includes the reconsecration of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque in 2020. The Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has criticised the move and several Greek political leaders have called for Mitsotakis to cancel a scheduled meeting with Erdogan next week.