Museum Dumps a Most Controversial Exhibit

Shanghai's OCAT gallery apologizes for Song Ta's display that ranked women from 'prettiest to ugliest'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2021 2:44 PM CDT
Museum Dumps Exhibit That Ranked Women's Attractiveness
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/SeventyFour)

One of China's most respected modern museums is taking heat for a multimedia exhibit that used university students as its unwitting subjects. The South China Morning Post and BBC note the artwork by male artist Song Ta at Shanghai's OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, or OCAT, was displayed under the Chinese title Campus Flower, while its English label read Uglier and Uglier. To create his work, Ta compiled images and videos he'd taken on a college campus in 2013 of 5,000 female students who happened to walk by him—then put that all together into a seven-hour video ranking the students from "prettiest to ugliest," in his view. "If you want to see the campus queen, you have to go to the museum as early as possible," he notes. "Otherwise, as dusk comes, it will become a living hell in this place." It's not the first time Song has seen controversy. Uglier and Uglier found similar pushback when it went on exhibit in 2013 at a museum in Beijing.

Later that year, he was involved with One Worse Than the Other, a live fashion catwalk display in Wuhan in which he made dozens of women walk out on the stage, starting with those he deemed the prettiest and ending with those he thought were least attractive. In a 2019 Vice interview that raised eyebrows, Song explained that he and his assistants also put the "ugly" women into either "forgivably ugly" or "unforgivably ugly" categories while sorting. He then rated the Vice reporter's looks at 277 out of 5,000. Song's defense of his art: "I have the right to tell the truth." OCAT, which says it's since taken the exhibit down and will close temporarily to rework some things, has a few issues with it. "We found it disrespected women, and the way it was shot has copyright infringement issues," the museum said on the Weibo social media platform on Friday. (More museums stories.)

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