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Andrea Bowers, Open Secret, 2018. Photo: Andrew Kreps Gallery / Instagram.*

Andrea Bowers Removes Photo of Assault Survivor from Art Basel Installation Following Outcry

Artist Andrea Bowers altered her installation inspired by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements at Art Basel and issued an apology after a survivor of sexual abuse called her out on Twitter for using her image without permission, leading to a social media frenzy.

On Tuesday, writer Helen Donahue posted the following after learning that her likeness was used in Bowers’s work: “cool that my fucking photos and trauma are heading art basel thx for exploiting us for ‘art’ ANDREA BOWERS @unavailabl DO YOU KNOW HOW FUCKING INSANE IT IS TO FIND OUT MY BEAT UP FACE AND BODY ARE ON DISPLAY AS ART RN FOR RICH PPL TO GAWK AT THRU A STRANGER’S INSTAGRAM STORY.” In 2017, Donahue claimed that a man who worked in media had attacked her, and she posted images of the bruises on her body online—Jezebel later identified the man as the former Vice freelance columnist Michael Hafford.

Titled Open Secret, 2018, and featured in the art fair’s Unlimited section for large-scale installations, the piece—which was originally shown at the Berlin gallery Capitain Petzel last summer—was meant as a tribute to the survivors of sexual harassment and violence. It consists of a sixty-two-foot wall plastered with photographs and text printed on red scrolls that list the names and occupations of approximately two hundred people who were accused of abuse. It also includes their responses to the allegations leveled against them and details of the resulting legal action. Several office chairs were placed around the piece, alluding to the place where harassment often starts, in the workplace.

Commenting on the misstep, Deirdre Coyle, who was also interviewed in the Jezebel report on Hafford, told The Cut that it was “very surreal” to see her name featured in the installation. “It felt deeply exploitative,” she said. “And while I believe Bowers’s work is well-intentioned, to use women’s names and stories—and in Helen’s case, photographs of her face—without their consent in a work about consent strikes me as irresponsible at best.”

In response to the backlash, Bowers released the following statement: “I, Andrea Bowers, would like to apologize to the survivor whose image was included in my piece. I should have asked for her consent. She has asked that the panel including her photo be removed and I have honored the request. I have reached out privately and am very much looking forward to listening.”

Open Secret is presented by kaufmann repetto, Milan, in collaboration with Capitain Petzel; Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York; and Vielmetter Los Angeles, who said in a statement that they “would also like to issue an apology to the survivor pictured in the piece. The galleries stand by Andrea Bowers and her work, and support the conversation that has only just begun.” The installation is priced at $300,000.

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