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Open Letter to the Serralves Foundation on the Censorship of "Robert Mapplethorpe: Pictures"

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Self-Portrait), ca. 1974. Via mapplethorpe.la.

(This open letter originally appeared here.)

Dear Ana Pinho, President of the Serralves Foundation

We, the undersigned, arts professionals and academics, write to condemn the decision taken by the Serralves Foundation to remove twenty works from your current exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: Pictures, which opened on the 20th of September 2018, and to restrict access to some gallery rooms to over-18s, against the will of its curator, João Ribas, who has since resigned from his role of Artistic Director of the Serralves Museum.

Robert Mapplethorpe has become a canonical figure of late-20th century American art, his work being praised for the ways in which it explores themes of eroticism, sex and sexuality whilst carrying out experiments with form and critical explorations of the medium and language of photography.

Notwithstanding the innumerous exhibitions and pages of critical scholarship dedicated to his work, Mapplethorpe’s photographs have also notoriously been at the centre of the so-called “Culture Wars” in the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s, being used by conservative politicians (most notably the Republican U.S. Senator Jesse Helms) to call for the end of public funding of the arts on the grounds of their perceived threat to “morality” and “decency.”

Despite the fact that the artist has recently had two major solo shows in the U.S.A. (at the J. Paul Getty Museum and at the LACMA), it is with sadness that we continue to see his work being apparently censored by institutions such as Serralves on—we suspect—a purely moral basis. What’s more, invoking the Portuguese law on the classification of “pornographic” material to restrict access to some sections of the exhibition is disingenuous and insulting, considering the vast number of erotic and/or sexually-explicit artworks that have become part of the Western Art Historical canon, many of which have been previously displayed in your Museum without equal enforcement of age restrictions. Whilst there are legitimate scholarly debates on the boundaries between art and pornography, those are not to be solved with executive decisions to censor by the Boards of Directors of museums but should, instead, continue to be explored in all their depth and complexity within exhibition spaces themselves and in critical scholarship.

We live in a time of deep political uncertainty, with the emergence of right-wing populism, ultranationalism, and threats to artistic and academic freedoms. In that context, it is deeply unfortunate that the Serralves Foundation has missed an opportunity to uphold the values that should have sustained it as a home for culture, thought and freedom and chose instead to succumb to moral puritanism and social conservatism.

Yours sincerely,

João Florêncio, Lecturer in History of Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture, University of Exeter
João Pedro Rodrigues, filmmaker
João Pedro Vale, artist
Nuno Alexandre Ferreira, artist
Anton Vidokle, director, e-flux
Wolfgang Tillmans, artist
Stuart Comer, chief curator
Tania Bruguera, artist
Ann Gallagher, Director of Collections, British art, Tate
Pablo Leon de la Barra, curator
Andrew Durbin, US senior editor, frieze magazine
Axel Wieder, director, Bergen Kunsthall
Manuel Segade, director, CA2M—Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid
Maria José Goulão, art historian, Universidade do Porto
Irene Flunser Pimentel, professor, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
David Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor, Art Institute of Chicago
João Fiadeiro, choreographer
Carlos Motta, artist
Pedro Neves Marques, artist
Dalila Carmo, actress
Gonçalo Pena, artist
Margarida Mendes, curator
Maria do Mar, musician
Diana Policarpo, artist
Carla Cruz, artist
A. L. Steiner, artist
Luís Silva, Co-director, Kunsthalle Lissabon
Cíntia Gil, co-director, DocLisboa—International Film Festival
Davide Oberto, co-director, DocLisboa; curator, Torino Film Festival
Alexandra Ferreira, artist
Pedro Lapa, lecturer and curator, Universidade de Lisboa
Millie Wilson, Professor Emerita, California Institute of the Arts
Karin Ohlenschläger, artistic director, Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial
Fernando Matos Oliveira, lecturer, Universidade de Coimbra
Daniel Ribas, lecturer, Universidade Católica Portuguesa
Pedro Schacht Pereira, Associate Professor, Ohio State University
António Manuel, artista
Reinhard Spieler, director, Sprengel Museum Hanover
Nikolai Nekh, artist
Luís Nobre, artist
Ricardo Cabaça, dramaturg and director
Russell Ferguson, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
Ana Balona de Oliveira, art historian and curator
Nuno de Campos, professor, Parsons School of Design
Juan Barros, screenwriter
João Barrinha, photographer
Renata Sancho, filmmaker
Shelly Silver, Associate Professor, Columbia University
Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, curator, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Haden Guest, director, Harvard Film Archive, Harvard University
Clarissa Smith, University of Sunderland
John Mercer, Professor of Gender and Sexuality, Birmingham City University
Jamie Hakim, University of East Anglia
Gloria Cortés Aliaga, curator, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Chile
Lynn Hershman, professor emeritus and artist, University of California
Cuauhtémoc Medina, chief-curator, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporánea (MUAC), UNAM, México
Juan Antonio Alvarez Reyes, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo
Lucia Sanroman, curator, YBCA
Gina McDaniel Tarver, Associate Professor of Art History, Texas State University
Pedro Morais, art critic, Quotidien de l’Art
Aimar Arriola, curator, editor and researcher
Carla Ferreira de Castro, lecturer, Universidade de Évora
Rita Gomes Ferrão, art historian, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Hugo Dinis, curator, Atelier-Museum Júlio Pomar
Eduarda Neves, researcher and curator
André Gil Mata, filmmaker
Nuno Amorim, filmmaker
Yolanda Romero, chief curator, Bank of Spain
Valeria Piccoli, Pinacoteca de São Paulo
Miguel Pedro Quadrio, Universidade Católica Portuguesa
Ana Vidigal, artist
Edgar Massul, artist
James Newitt, artist
Eliel Jones, writer and curator
Edgar Brito, Universidade do Porto
José Capela, lecturer
Rita Silva, dramaturg
Andrés Duque, filmmaker
Gregory H. Williams, Associate Professor, History of Art & Architecture, Boston University
Matthew Rogalsky, artist, Queen’s University, Canada
Taiyana Pimentel, museum director, Proyecto Siqueiros:SAPS-La Tallera, Mexico
So Mayer, writer and critic
Tadeu Chiarelli, professor, Universidade de São Paulo
Marian Mayer, Senior Lecturer, Bournemouth University
Marta Gaspar, graphic designer
João Pedro Amorim, artist
Darren Ennis, research associate, Imperial College London
Diogo Carvalho Pinto, exhibition assistant
Charlie Sarson, visiting lecturer, Birmingham City University
Eduardo Fonseca e Silva, artist
Rita Tomás, PR executive
Mariana Duarte, journalist
Craig Haslop, lecturer, University of Liverpool
Cristina Fontaneda, collection and exhibition coordinator, Museo Patio Herreriano, Valladolid
Carlos Azeredo Mesquita, artist
João Polido Gomes, artist
Francisca Aires, cultural producer
Fiona Allen, lecturer, University of Exeter
Lorena Muñoz-Alonso, art critic
Noah Simblist, Chair of Painting and Printmaking, Virginia Commonwealth University
Inês Costa, Exhibitions Assistant, Whitechapel Gallery
Philippe Pirote, Dean, Staedelschule Frankfurt
BI[S], performance artist
Pedro Pinheiro, artist
Aveline de Bruin, curator, Quetzal Art Centre
Daniel Pired, Director, Maus Hábitos & Saco Azul
Margarida Almeida, arts manager
Hannah Hamad, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University
José Maria Vieira Mendes, playwright
Mariana Custódio, fashion designer
Carlos A. Aguilera, writer, Incubadora
Nuno Ganho, lecturer, Universidade de Coimbra
Jesse James, artistic director
mtfields, media artist
Cristiana Pena, researcher
André Guerreiro Pinto, sound artist, Colecção B
Manuela Santos Maia, artist
Susana Chiocca, artist
Isabel Ribeiro, artist
Cristina Regadas, artist
Antonio Lago, performer
Nuno Ramalho, artist
Simão Bolívar, project manager
Carlos Baptista, designer
Marianne Baillot, artistic director
Ana Cristina Cachola, lecturer and curator, Universidade Católica Portuguesa
João Marçal, painter
Joana P. R. Neves, artistic director, DNAF / PhD researcher, Kingston School of Arts
Sílvia Escórcio, Communication curator
RitaGT, artist
Andreia Santana, artist
Beatriz Vasconcelos, cultural communication
Natercia Caneira, artist
Jorge Gonçalves, artist
Marco Maria Zanin, artist
John Kannenberg, director and chief curator, Museum of Portable Sound
Luiza Teixeira de Freitas, curator
Catarina Rosendo, art historian
Marisa Ferreira, artist
Miguel Sousa Ribeiro, curator
Sandra Oliveira, director, Jardins Efémeros
Pedro Pousada, artist and lecturer, Universidade de Coimbra
Pedro Faro, historian and art critic
Marcia Novais, graphic designer
Jérémy Pajeanc, artist
Edu Silva, photographer
Orsola Vannocci, curator, Da Luz Collective
Sofia Caetano, artist
Gordon Sharp, singer and sonic artist
Bruno Monteiro, artist
Mariana Gomes, painter
Luís Ribeiro, artist
Sofia Steinvorth, cultural manager
Inês Espada Vieira, lecturer, Universidade Católica Portuguesa
Henrique Loja, artist
Ana Isabel Salgueiro Trincão, performer, choreographer and researcher
Miguel A. López, co-director and chief curator, TEOR/éTica
Susana Mendes Silva, artist
Carolina Pimenta, artist
Miriam Sampaio, artist
Marcos Simões, choreographic artist
Marta Espiridião, curator
Vanessa Rato, research assistant, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
António José Cabeço, photographer
Ema Ribeiro, gallerist
Diogo Varela Silva, filmmaker
Joaquim Oliveira Caetano, conservator, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
João Gaspar, producer
Iñaki Martínez Antelo, curator
Cristiana Tejo, curator and researcher, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Vasco Lima, music producer
Ana Vidigal, artist
Paulo Guimarães Pedro, costume designer
Vera Appleton, director, Appleton Associação Cultural
Carlota Alvarez Basso, conservator
Jacopo Miliani, artist
Pedro Taboaço, teacher
Celina Brás, editor, Contemporânea magazine
João Soares, architect
Biacan Oichea, choreographer
Joana Bento, artist
André Guedes, artist
Juan Luis Toboso, researcher and independent curator
Miguel Ribeiro, journalist
Margarida Paiva, artist
Vanda Gorjão, lecturer
Rita Senra, artist
Clara Gomez, conservator
Pedro Gomes, artist
Sonia Taborda, Head of Communication
Diogo Brito, artist
Guilherme Caeiro, filmmaker
Vanessa Badagliacca, art historian
Sara Feio, illustrator
António, artist
Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva, art writer
Miguel Mesquita, curator
Mickael Gonçalves Rodrigues, architect
Vera J Herold da Costa Reis, researcher, Universidade Católica Portuguesa
Gustavo Guimarães, architect
Nuno Nunes-Ferreira, artist
Edgar Massul, artist
Ana Margarida da Esperança Bernardo Salgueiro Rodrigues, researcher, Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Cultura
Vasco Araújo, artist
Henrique Margarido, researcher, Universidade do Minho
Gabriel Mendes, producer, DJ
Horácio Frutuoso, artist
António Melo Vieira, artist
Teresa Farmhouse Cavalheiro, artist
Francisco Chacon, journalist
Manuela Pacheco, artist
José Nunes, theatre director
Cristina Silva, programmer
Nuno Morna, curator
António Pedro Faria, architect
Rita Dourado, architect
Duarte Araujo, producer
Eva Zbogo, art manager
Liza Valerie Sobral Hanna, photographer
José Gulherme Almeida, PhD researcher
Ana Rito, artist and curator
Sandrina Espiridiao de Oliveira, art teacher, Escola Artística Antonio Arroio
Paulo Mendes, artist and curator
Rita Mendes, artist
Priscila Fernandes, artist
Susana Jesus, photographer
Josep Salmeron, journalist
Lúcia Prancha, artist
Paulo Monteiro, architect
Maess, artist, Residency unlimited
Chelsea Haines, PhD candidate, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Pedro Magalhães, gallery director
Luís André Sá, performer
Mónica Mota, designer
Mario Garcia Torres, Artist
Pedro de Llano, Postdoctoral researcher, Universidad de Santiago
Catarina Leitão, artist
Àngels Miralda, curator
Ana Margarida Costa Oliveira, artist
Carolina Grau, curator
Ed Leonardi, art teacher, Armory Center for the Arts
Bárbara Gil, artist
Ângelo Ferreira de Sousa, artist
Ana Braga, museologist
Boris Altrux-Tallau, art critic
André da Fonseca, artist
Pedro Oliveira, gallery director
Ricardo Sardenberg, curator
Telma Pereira, artist
Frank Coelho, writer
Marco Apaiva, actor
Ricardo Jesus, artist
Sofia Nunes, art critic
Lara Boticário Morais, artist
Francisca Sousa, artist, sexologist
Filipe Dinarte da Silva, artist
Aimar Pérez Galí, choreographer
Diana de Sousa, actress
Ana Brito, artist
Isabella Irlandini, actress
André E. Teodósio, artist
Eloy V. Palazón, PhD candidate, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Maria Sequeira Mendes, lecturer, Universidade de Lisboa
Jason McKechnie, artist and curator
Wilson Ledo, journalist and curator
Sara Graça, artist
Lígia Afonso, art historian
Adriana Freire, photographer
Margarida Sardinhar, artist
Rita Xavier Monteiro, programme assistant, Teatro Municipal do Porto
Manuela dos Campos, artist
Stefan Benchoam, artist and exhibition maker
Ines Cordeiro Dias, assistant professor, Spelman College
Carla Filipe, artist
Antoine Pimentel, artist
Felipe Mujica, artist
André Scucato, poet and professor, PACHAU
Denilson Lopes, associate professor, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
Carlos Leon-Zjimenez, artist and independent curator, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
Joana Pacheco, artist
Amanda de la Garza, adjunct curator, MUAC
Esvin Alarcon Lam, artist
Diana Kuellar, documentarian, Universidad del Valle-Cali, Colombia
Eva Oddo, curator, A Montanha
Priscilla Monge, artist
Roberto Amigo, ex-chief curator, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Argentina
João Cardoso Ribero, photographer
Ana Patricia Correia de Campos, conservator
Elisabete Sousa, researcher, Universidade de Lisboa
David Escobar, journalist
Catarina Nascimento, gallery assistant
Dasha Birukova, independent curator
Paulo Aureliano da Mata, artist and editor, Cia. Excessos / eRevista Performatus
Omar Balde, journalist
Cláudia Jardim, actress and director
Juliana da Silca, sculptor
Graça Rodrigues, curator
Catia Carvalheira, fashion designer
Israel Pimenta, artist
Mário Moura, lecturer, Universidade do Porto
Gala Berger, artist
Igor Marques, artist
Susana de Sousa Dias, filmmaker
Rui Miguel Leitão Ferreira, artist
Teresa Silveira, journalist
Manuel Romano, dramaturg, actor
Filipe Brandão, invigilator
Inês Coelho da Silva, artist
Manuela Marques, artist
Pedro Alfacinha, art dealer
Tiago Carneiro, communication designer
Nuno Coelho, designer, lecturer, curator, Universidade de Coimbra
Susana Pomba, curator
João Francisco Figueira, editor/curator and lecturer, Ymago/KKYM and Universidade de Lisboa
Margarida Paiva, artist
Inês Henriques, artist
Marcia Thompson, artist
Mariana Esteves Pereira, artist
Julius Mirlo, artist, writer, Comunina
Rui de Sousa Morais, economist
Nuno Maio, graphic designer
Carlos Alexandre Rodrigues, artist
Raquel Freire, filmmaker
Patrícia Machado, designer
Fernando Arruda, curator
Maria Pais, collector
Inês Teles Carvalhal, curator
Riccardo T., artist
Maria José Moteiro, casting director
Ruth Estevez, curator and writer
Carolina Quirino, artist
Fátima Roque, cultural advisor
Carlos Vargas, Spiralya—Experimental Works
Javier Martín, choreographer
Vasco Pimentel, Sound designer
Óscar Faria, researcher, curator, art critic, Sismógrafo
Pedro Jordão, architect, producer
Esgar Acelerado, illustrator
Pedro Cunha, artist
Miguel Mendes, composer
Roberto Martinez, artist
Hélder Folgado, artist
Jorge Batista, art historian, CIEBA
Leonor Antunes, artist
Francisco Miguel Oliveira Carvalho de Sousas, architect
Ana Paula Gaspar, graphic designer
João Camacho, architect, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa
Joana Carvalho, product designer
Daniel Mendes, artist
Eduarda Sá Andresen, artist
Barbara Hammer, artist
Afonso Gaudência, cinematographer
João Leonardo, artist
André de Campos, dancer
Cecilia Jurado Chueca, artist
Maria Teresa Sousa, architect
Ana Calhau, designer
Seumas R. Coutts, curator
Maite Lor´s, art critic, AICA
Antia Cea Garcia, curator
Gavin Everall, editor
Maria Leonor Castro e Silva, academic, Universidade do Porto
Daniel Arrhakis, digital artist/photographer
Ana Ulisses, artist
André Alves, PhD candidate
Ana Almeida Pinto, artist
Rui M. Sá, researcher, Universidade de Coimbra
Ana Filipa Oliveira, journalist
Sam Costello, performance artist
Miguel Cunha, actor
Runo Lagomarsino, artist
Tiago Pires Marques, researcher FCT
Carlos da Quadrada, architect
Hugo Milhazes da Cunha, cultural promoter
Ana Brito, artistic coordinator
Bruce Eves, artist
Tales Frey, artist
João Conceição, front of house team leader, Chisenhale Gallery
Maria Vlachou, cultural manager
Nuno Bessa, architect
José Soares, artist
Tiago Jácome, performer
João Pinho, poet
Alice Geirinhas, artist
Diana Carvalho, artist
Helena Correia, cultural manager, curator & researcher, Universidade Católica Portuguesa
Vasco Rodrigues, sound designer
Lara Torres, Senior Lecturer, University of Portsmouth
Sara Carneiro, artist
Marisa Ferreira, artist
Joana Simoes Henriques, Head of Education and Public Programmes
Sofia Leitão, artist
Carlos Salvador, lecturer and cultural programmer
Tomás Baltazar, film editor
Maria Figueiredo, designer
Victoria Vyvyan, artist
Jorge Viegas, gallerist
Maria João Ferreira, artist
Patrícia Falcão, time-based media conservator
Carlos Vidal, lecturer, University of Lisbon
Andreas Valentin, photographer and lecturer, Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro
Joana Mont’ Alverne, actress
Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria, film programmer
Paulo Couto, designer
K. Stepanskyy, filmmaker
Glenda Balucani, producer
Cristina Regadas, artist
José António Almeida Pereira, artist
Rodrigo Gomes, artist
Tânia Raquel Mota, designer