An event at the Boston Museum of Fine Art has been cancelled due to claims that it was fetishising Japanese culture.
The museum had scheduled "Kimono Wednesdays," inviting participants to pose in replica kimonos in front of Monet's "La Japonaise," along with a proposed talk on Orientalism called "Flirting With The Exotic."
A group called "Stand Against Yellow Face" organized a protest at the museum at the first event. The next week the museum responded by handing out a guide to the exhibit which defended the event.
The museum have now issued the following statement regarding the protests, saying they will no longer allow visitors to wear the kimono, but it will be available for them to handle.
The MFA's mission is to engage people with direct encounters with works of art, and to be an inclusive and welcoming place for all. When the MFA's painting, La Japonaise by Claude Monet, travelled throughout Japan for an exhibition, historically accurate reproduction kimonos were made for visitors to try on. When the painting returned to Boston and a similar program was introduced at the MFA, we heard concerns from some members of our community, and as a result, we've decided to change our programming. The kimonos will now be on display in the Impressionist gallery every Wednesday evening in July for visitors to touch and engage with, but not to try on. This allows the MFA to continue to achieve the program's goal of offering an interactive experience with the kimonos—understanding their weight and size, and appreciating the embroidery, material, and narrative composition. We will also increase the number of Spotlight Talks presented by MFA educators, to take place every Wednesday evening in July in conjunction with the display of the kimonos. The talks provide context on French Impressionism, "japonisme," and the historical background of the painting, as well as an opportunity to engage in culturally sensitive discourse. We apologize for offending any visitors, and welcome everyone to participate in these programs on Wednesday evenings, when Museum admission is free. We look forward to continuing the Museum's long-standing dialogue about the art, culture and influence of Japan.
However, "Stand Against Yellow Face" are continuing to protest against the MFA, as they feel the museum has not met their demands and are still committing cultural appropriation.
Rachael Krishna is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rachael Krishna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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