The newest exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's modern branch – the Met Breuer – is a steamy 50-work collection of mostly drawings, and mostly of women, entitled “ “Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso.“ If it weren't for the delicacy and polish of these modern masters' graphic descriptions of acts like oral sex and masturbation, they could easily be classed as porn.

Not on my watch

The collection was donated to the Met by Scofield Thayer who ran an avant-garde literary magazine in the early 20th century called the Dial and introduced to American readers the likes of T.S.

Eliot and Ezra Pound. He also illustrated their writing with examples of modern art. But here's the thing. As progressive as the magazine was, Thayer never published the raw drawings now showing at the Met Breuer. In fact, this is the first time that such works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Pablo Picasso have been displayed together.

The reason why

James Dempsey, author of the 2014 biography “The Tortured Life of Scofield Thayer” who co-authored the Met's exhibit catalog, told ArtNet News that Dial didn't include the erotica he collected for fear of being charged with obscenity. Of course, that was in the early 20th century when community standards were stricter. The Met isn't taking much of a risk mounting a show of raunchy drawings.

Yet in this MeToo era, objections have arisen because all three of the exhibiting artists are said to have mistreated women: Picasso was violent toward his wives and lovers, Schiele was arrested for raping a 14-year-old girl and Klimt, though unmarried, fathered 14 children. Sarah Cascone, associate editor at ArtNet News and co-founder of Young Women in the Arts reports calls for New York museums to point out the offenses of their exhibiting artists.

The Met's exhibit catalog mentions the allegations against Schiele, but says nothing of the sexist behavior of Picasso or Klimt.


But just how far should the exposure of sexism go? Should say - publishers - now call out their writers' abuses in the flyleafs of the authors' books? I'm thinking of Norman Mailer who stabbed his wife twice in the chest with a penknife and William Golding who tried to rape a 15-year-old girl and William Burroughs aiming for a glass cup on his wife's head killed her instead.

Where does all this finger-pointing end?.” My only objection to the Met show is not what's on view, but what isn't. Since the museum pays homage to Thayer, crediting him for amassing the lesser known works of three art world giants, as well as published writers like Eliot and Pound, shouldn't excerpts from their work be part of the display – particularly the poets addressing male-female relations? A line comes to mind from Pound's "The River-Merchant's Wife: A letter”:

“I desire my dust to be mingled with yours forever and forever and forever.” Words like those would refine the rawness of the show, don't you think?...”