Photographer Nicholas Nixon asks ICA Boston to Pull Show After Sexual Harassment Claims
The ICA’s initial decision to keep the show was criticized by several of its own staffers
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, is pulling its exhibition by Nicholas Nixon 10 days early at the artist’s request. It follows claims that the photographer, known for his black-and-white portraits of AIDS patients and the elderly, sexually harassed models and students during his tenure at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
The allegations made by over a dozen people include claims that he showed students photographs of his penis, and talked about an erotic dream involving a female student. Nixon retired from the school last month during an investigation into his behaviour.
The decision to close the show ahead of schedule marks a turnaround for the museum, the Boston Globe reports, after it originally said the exhibition would stay on view despite the harassment allegations.
The ICA had initially decided to create new gallery signage and an online forum to discuss Nixon’s alleged misconduct. In a post on the forum, now deleted, chief curator Eva Respini asked: ‘Can we separate creative output from personal conduct?’ Respini concluded that museums ‘should be safe spaces for open dialogue and debate’.
However several anonymous staffers used the forum to criticize the ICA’s decision to keep the exhibition. One staff member commented: ‘Once again, when presented with an opportunity to make a controversial but morally guided decision, the ICA chose to protect the problematic artist and its own pockets.’ The whole online forum has since been removed.
In response to the museum’s open discussion, the artist wrote to the museum to say: ‘I believe it is impossible for these photographs to be viewed on their own merits any longer. In response, with deep regret, and only after careful thought, I believe it is more respectful to all concerned – to your mission, and to the work itself – to remove the exhibit as soon as possible.’