Ah Paris, the city of love, art and liberated attitudes about sex. Oui? Non.
A retrospective of US photographer and film director Larry Clark’s 50-year career, that chronicles the lives of American teenagers between 1960 and 2010, has opened at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. Clark is best known for his 1995 film Kids. However, despite the fact that the photographs are of teenagers, the exhibition will be off bounds to anyone under the age of 18. Paris City Hall imposed the age restriction, apparently deeming the photographs’ content (skateboarding, punk rock, sex, drugs and firearms) as inappropriate.
The show’s catalog has also raised difficulties, with the traditional publishing house for the capitals’ exhibitions refusing to print it due to certain images making them feel “uncomfortable.” The catalog had to be printed in Britain, a country traditionally associated with a somewhat reserved attitude towards sex. Some of Clark’s controversial images are already displayed in the New York Museum of Modern Art without an age restriction.
The ruling has provoked an outcry from the French media and politicians. Green Party members sitting on the Paris city council have spoken up against the decision, asking whether French teens are more innocent than U.S. ones. French newspaper Libération also printed an explicit black and white shot from the exhibition on its front page in protest. The image showed a young couple lying naked on the back seat of a car.
The Independent reported that Larry Clark complained the age restriction made no sense, saying that it was like telling teenagers to “go back to your rooms and watch all this s— displayed on the Internet, but we don’t want you to see art that talks about you in museums.” He added dryly that the age limit didn’t matter anyway, as Parisian teenagers can always download his photographs on the Internet.