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Chinese gallery apologises for artwork ranking women’s looks

Beijing – A state-backed art gallery in Shanghai apologised on Friday for promoting an artwork that ranked thousands of real-life women by appearance after a social media uproar.

The Ocat Shanghai gallery said it had removed the work – titled “Uglier and Uglier” – by male artist Song Ta, as it showed “disrespect and offence to female friends”.

It apologised for “trouble, discomfort and injury” caused by the work.

The hours-long video featured about 5,000 photos and videos of anonymous women filmed on a university campus, displayed and given numerical ranks based on the artist’s judgment of their attractiveness.

The work, which has appeared in multiple shows since 2013, sparked online outrage after Ocat promoted it online earlier this week, with Chinese social media users saying it was misogynistic and an invasion of women’s privacy.

“It’s already 2021, how can you still objectify women so boldly, without any shame?” one Weibo user asked in a post, using the hashtag for the artwork’s name, which had been viewed 90 million times by Friday evening.

Song told Vice magazine’s now-defunct Chinese edition in 2019 that he and his assistants had sorted the images into computer folders with names such as “forgivably ugly” and “unforgivably ugly”.

He said in the Vice interview that his assistants had “not exchanged superfluous words and just directly filmed” the women, and that he had sent female assistants to do the filming work as it “wouldn’t seem as perverted”.

“I think I have the right to tell the truth,” he said in the interview, in response to critics.

Beijing Commune, the gallery that represents Song, did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

Ocat, sponsored by the state-owned tourism and real estate conglomerate Overseas Chinese Town Enterprises, said Friday it was temporarily closing the exhibition to remove the work, and would “conduct in-depth reflection”.

Song Ta’s works, which include tongue-in-cheek drawings as well as other video art, have been exhibited internationally including at established institutions in Switzerland and the UK. — AFP

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