A performance artist claiming to raise awareness about a women’s place in the art world who exposes herself in museums is to be prosecuted for exhibitionism after baring her genitals in front of the Mona Lisa in Paris, her lawyer said Thursday.
Deborah de Robertis spread her bare legs before Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece on Sunday in the Louvre museum, shouting ‘Mona Lisa, my pussy, my copyright’ as several dozen tourists looked on. ‘The goal was not to exhibit my genitals,’ the 33-year-old said, ‘but to copy a famous photograph by Valie Export’ – an Austrian performance artist known for her sexually provocative acts during the 1970s. ‘My message is to question the place of women artists in the history of art. That’s why it’s necessary to do my performances in museums,’ said Robertis, who has dual French and Luxembourg nationality.
Robertis was in custody for two days before appearing before a judge, who ordered her to face trial on October 18 on charges of sexual exhibitionism and assault – for biting a museum guard’s jacket during her arrest.
‘The legal approach to this affair is scandalous,’ Robertis’s lawyer Marie Dose said. ‘It’s not exhibitionism if there is no wish to assault someone sexually, which is completely contrary to the work of this performance artist.’ Robertis went on trial in February but was acquitted when a judge determined that similar acts at the Decorative Arts Museum and the Museum of European Photography in Paris were artistic performances.
Robertis performed a similar stunt before the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in April. She was arrested in January 2016 for indecent exposure after lying down naked in the Orsay Museum in front of Edouard Manet’s similarly nude painting of the prostitute Olympia. In May 2014 she exposed herself in front of Gustave Courbet’s ‘The Origin of the World’ painting, also at the Orsay, to mimic the close-up of a woman’s genitals. The painting caused a sensation when it went on view in 1866.