An art gallery in the Chinese city of Shanghai has apologised for promoting an exhibit that ranked images of women from “prettiest to ugliest”.
The video artwork “Uglier and Uglier”, by male artist Song Ta, featured about 5,000 images and videos of women in real life on a university campus.
The artist then ranked them according to how attractive he found them.
After an outcry on social media, the OCAT Shanghai gallery said it had removed the exhibit.
“After receiving criticism, we re-evaluated the content of this artwork and the artist’s explanation, we found it disrespected women, and the way it was shot has copyright infringement issues,” the museum said on China’s Weibo social media platform.
“As a museum that supports diversity, we will take this as a warning, improve our services and treat everyone with empathy.”
OCAT – the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal – is a division of the He Xiangning Art Museum.
Song created the controversial exhibit in 2013 and it has appeared in several shows since then.
In his introduction to the project, he says he recorded the women as they passed by him on a university campus, the South China Post reported. Then he numbered them according to how attractive he found them – from prettiest to ugliest – to create the seven-hour long video.
“So if you want to see the campus queen, you have to go to the museum as early as possible. Otherwise, as dusk comes, it will become a living hell in this place,” he said.
In a 2019 interview with Vice magazine, Song said he and a team of assistants had digitally sorted the images under titles such as “forgivably ugly” and “unforgivably ugly”.
He defended the work saying: “I think I have the right to tell the truth.”
Many commentators on Weibo were outraged that the gallery had displayed and advertised the “misogynistic” and “intrusive” artwork.
“It’s already 2021, how can you still objectify women so boldly, without any shame?” one said.
“This artwork is not only insulting but infringes on individuals’ portrait rights, and these women didn’t even know they were being filmed,” another wrote.