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A Picasso Nude is the Latest to Fall Foul of Facebook Censors

‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso’: social media platform to review nudity policy after blocking Montreal Museum of Fine Arts ads

Pablo Picasso, Femmes à la toilette, 1956. Courtesy: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Estate of Picasso; photograph: Art Resource, NY, RMN-Grand Palais, Mathieu Rabeau

Pablo Picasso, Femmes à la toilette, 1956. Courtesy: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Estate of Picasso; photograph: Art Resource, NY, RMN-Grand Palais, Mathieu Rabeau

Pablo Picasso, Femmes à la toilette, 1956. Courtesy: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Estate of Picasso; photograph: Art Resource, NY, RMN-Grand Palais, Mathieu Rabeau

The latest artist to fall foul of Facebook’s anti-nudity policies is none other than Pablo Picasso. A set of online advertisements created by Canada’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, featuring Picasso nudes including his 1956 Femmes à la toilette, was blocked by the social media company. The painting ‘wasn’t shocking’, a museum spokesperson said. ‘The algorithm doesn’t see the difference between a piece of art and a bad ad,’ they told the BBC.

The adverts were promoting the museum’s summer blockbuster exhibition. ‘From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-Face Picasso, Past and Present’ explores the impact of African art on Picasso, and in turn, his influence on contemporary African art. Although they were initially blocked by Facebook, they have since been accepted. ‘It was funny for us, you know, like unbelievable,’ the museum’s spokesperson Pascale Chassé told CBC. ‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso.’

Facebook currently prohibits the posting of images featuring nude paintings as well as photographs, sculpture and other artworks that depict nudity. But after an outcry over several recent instances of artwork censorship, Facebook has promised to review its nudity policy. ‘We want to make sure that museums and other institutions are able to share some of their most iconic paintings and are currently reviewing our approach to nudity in paintings in ads on Facebook,’ a spokesperson said.

The Montreal museum is just the latest to trip up over Facebook’s strict regulations around imagery featuring the naked body. Last month, the Flemish tourism bureau had an advertising campaign halted by Facebook, after a 17th century painting The Descent from the Cross by Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens violated guidelines. Other recent instances also include the social media platform closing accounts that uploaded Gustave Courbet’s 1866 The Origin of the World (featuring female genitals), and photographs of the prehistoric Venus of Willendorf statuette.

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