One of the nation’s most prestigious art museums recently posted a painting of a woman licking an ice cream cone — an image that was inexplicably deemed offensive and yanked down.
Now, art lovers are wondering why.
The image was meant to promote “International Pop,” a Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibit that delves into pop culture and art as a global phenomenon shaped by artists from around the world working in different mediums.
In Evelyne Axell’s “Ice Cream,” a young woman with long eyelashes is licking a phallic-looking ice cream cone. The image also appears on a billboard on the Schuylkill Expressway near the Spring Garden Street exit.
Facebook recently removed the image, informing the art museum that “Ice Cream” did not meet its ad guidelines because it contained “excessive amounts of skin or suggestive content.”
The museum shared the news with its Facebook fans, and the response was self-evident. It is, after all, an ice cream cone.
“We chose this work by Evelyne Axell as one of our keystone marketing images because it speaks to so many themes found throughout pop – consumption, pleasure and seduction,” said exhibition curator Erica Battle.
“Axell herself was aware of the ways in which our perception is shaped by authority and authorship, which is why she sometimes exhibited her work using only her last name,” she said.
Axell was a Belgian pop painter best known for her psychedelic and erotic works of art that blended hedonistic and carnal expressions onto canvas. They challenged artistic conventions and embraced the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
“The response to her work on Facebook reflects how these themes interweaves to form a complex, probing investigation into social politics that is incredibly relevant to today’s digital world in which we are all compelled to share and comment on images of all kinds,” said Battle.
Attempts to reach Facebook for comment were unsuccessful.
According to Norman Keyes, communications director for the art museum, “International Pop” features paintings, sculptures, assemblages, installations, prints and films by 80 artists, drawn from both public and private collections from around the world.
“Ice Cream” is currently on loan from the Collection of Serge Goisse in Belgium. It, and many others are on view at the art museum from Feb. 24 through May 15.