Lot 62, Charles Blackman’s oil painting “Women Lovers”, is expected to fetch up to $55,000 when it goes up for auction next week, but Facebook has deemed the work by one of Australia’s most celebrated artists has been deemed too rude to advertise to its users.
Auction house Mossgreen, which is selling the Blackman among 250 works from The Lowenstein Collection of Modern & Contemporary Australian Art, has been using the painting as the image to advertise its March 7 auction, but it was banned by Facebook for violating guidelines by “advertising adult products or services including toys, videos or sexualising enhancement products”.
Mossgreen CEO Paul Sumner told Business Insider that they posted the Blackman on Facebook without complaint, but when it was used in a promotional video for the auction and they tried to use Facebook’s paid channel, the social media company blocked it as “adult content”.
Sumner challenged the ruling arguing it was “a culturally significant work” and “does not advertise adult products or services”, in an ad targeting “those ‘interested in modern and contemporary art, art galleries, auctions and museums (18+)’.”
Like many instances of Facebook blocking images, the company’s policy is difficult to decipher.
While Facebook says its policy “prohibits photos of actual nude people, not paintings or sculptures”, a photo one the world’s most famous sculptures, the century-old Little Mermaid in Copenhagen was taken down after it was posted by a Danish politician.
And last year a photo of Aboriginal women in traditional costume was banned from the site, to the bewilderment of publisher New Matilda, which pointed out that a nude of Kim Kardashian wearing only body paint appeared to escape the censors.
Facebook told Mossgreen that it doesn’t “allow ads that show nude images” but added “ex. medical diagrams, nude art, etc.”, because “such ads lead to negative user sentiment and we have zero tolerance to such advertisements”.
Sumner said his auction house will continue to fight the ruling by the global tech giant.
“I find Facebook’s interpretation of this beautiful figurative painting, by one of Australia’s most celebrated artists difficult to comprehend,” he said.
“This is the 21st century and the presumption that people will view it as purely sexual and find it offensive is ridiculous.”
The latest Facebook fatwah comes 12 months after it banned a 50-year-old pop art image of a woman licking an ice cream by Belgian artist Evelyne Axells, posted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, for being “too suggestive”.
Facebook has been contacted for comment on the Mossgreen ban.
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