French Museum Reacts to (Near) Nudity in its Galleries Same Way American Museum Did

01/16/2012 8:59 AM |

Which of these museum patrons will be in their undies in three seconds?

  • Which of these museum patrons will be in their undies in three seconds?

You’d hope, if only for the sake of preserving national stereotypes, that a stunt like that perpetrated by photographer Zach Hyman at the Met back in 2009—for which all charges were eventually dismissed—would go over better in France. But a French lingerie company recently put that conventional logic to the test at the Musée d’Orsay and received a formal complaint from the museum of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, which says it’s contemplating further legal action.

The video in question (embedded below) shows a viral stunt for French label Etam shot on December 15 of last year, when three models walked into the museum, stripped to their undies and strutted and skipped through the galleries. Though the video seems to show the models being stopped just as they make their escape, director of communications for the Parisian museum Amélie Hardivillier tells Libération that they were noticed by museum staff as soon as they disrobed, told to put their coats back on, and filmed the final shots of the video only as they were being escorted out the main exit. Hardivillier, who oversees shooting permits for the museum, tells the Daily Mail that a request to shoot the ad would never have been approved. The museum’s lawyers have filed a formal complaint against Etam demanding the video be removed—which has not happened—and threatening further legal action if it is not.

But as opposed to the controversial shoot at the Met in 2009, the issue here seems to have less to do with indecent exposure than with undesirable branding. A statement from the museum to France Soir alleges that the Etam shoot “threatens the museum’s image and reputation.” It also states that “the video has sparked comments in which the museum is reproached for selling its image for advertising revenue.” Which, fair enough.

That being said, last January the Musée d’Orsay gladly sold advertising space on its historic façade to accommodate a very large billboard featuring Kate Moss as the spokesperson for a new perfume, a decision that did plenty to threaten the museum’s image and reputation. But enough about brands and viral marketing fallout in France, here’s the video already.

Follow Benjamin Sutton on Twitter @LMagArt