Vienna finds a unique way to showcase its provocative masterpieces

Inviting art aficionados across the world to view its heritage of priceless paintings and sculptures on an adults-only social media platform is a radical way to make a point about artistic freedom.  

While modern-day influencers may find clever ways to circumvent social media algorithms that flag content that is deemed inappropriate for some viewers, sometimes a 29,000-year-old mother goddess may not be quite so savvy.

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The prehistoric figurine called the Venus of Willendorf in Vienna’s Natural History Museum, whose image was censored by a social media platform in 2018. Image: Shutterstock/frantic00.

Which is why, the Vienna Tourist Board (VTB) has come to the rescue so the ancient Venus of Willendorf sculpture and other artworks that make up the city’s rich culture and heritage can be accessible to today’s generation. The VTB’s innovative initiative is to offer prized but provocative works of art such as the nude figure of the Venus or art by Egon Schiele and Amadeo Modigliani, which have otherwise fallen victim to censorship across other social networks, on the adults-only social network OnlyFans.

This audacious marketing initiative called ‘Vienna strips on OnlyFans’ move puts artistic freedom at the centre of social debate. The world is talking about OnlyFans, the social network which pioneers a paradigm shift in the world of social media by allowing creators to share nude and pornographic content with their subscribers. This is in sharp contrast to established social networks, which enforce strict censorship on content that depicts human nudity. Vienna and its art institutions have been subjected to this online censorship on several occasions when they have tried to advertise famous, provocative artworks on social media.

Subscribers over 18 years old will have the opportunity to view provocative works by Egon Schiele, Valie Export, Amedeo Modigliani, Peter Paul Rubens, the nude Venus of Willendorf and many others. Following the tourist boards award-winning #ToArtItsFreedom campaign in 2017, this initiative invites a social debate on artistic freedom. The aim is to encourage viewers to visit the artworks in real life, as subscribers to Vienna’s OnlyFans page will receive either a Vienna City Card or an admission ticket to one of the featured museums where the explicit artworks can be seen.

read more: Lodhi Art District: India’s first open-air art museum

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Left: A section of the Female Semi-Nude by Amedeo Modigliani, 1918 © The Albertina Museum, Vienna – The Batliner Collection. Right: A part of the Helena Fourment (‘Het Pelsken’) by Peter Paul Rubens, 1638 © Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Picture Gallery.

VTB Director Norbert Kettner comments, “In social media, algorithms determine how much nudity may be shown and often censor world-famous works of art. We question how much nudity we can tolerate and who can determine what we find offensive. In the cultural metropolis of Vienna, the question can be answered: nude art is socio-political and artistic part of cultural history.”

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A tourist admires a painting by Rubens at the Kunsthistorisches Museum or Museum of Art History in Vienna. Image: Shutterstock/Tupungato.

Visiting Vienna? Here’s where you can view the real deal…

The Albertina Museum, which has previously been censored online and had its social media accounts temporarily suspended for advertising nude artworks, is currently showcasing a spectacular exhibition of Amedeo Modigliani works, some of which are too explicit to be shown on social media.

The Leopold Museum houses the world’s largest art collection by the expressionist Egon Schiele, who is considered one of the most popular artists of all time. His art famously irritates and provokes and still attracts the attention of censors a hundred years after his death.

The Natural History Museum Vienna is home to the world-famous Venus of Willendorf, whose photos were considered pornographic by some social media platforms.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum houses a picture gallery which is also one of the largest and most important of its kind in the world. The museum was built near the Hofburg to house the extensive collections of the imperial family, which include some of the most important artworks in the world today. The Picture Gallery is home to numerous major works of Western art, including spicy masterpieces by Rubens and Titian, which can be found uncensored on Vienna’s OnlyFans page alongside magnificent statuettes from the Kunstkammer.

Shaking up the world of art and social media with this radical move, the VTB hopes art has finally found its freedom online.

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Inside the Kunsthistorisches Museum or Museum of Art History in Vienna. Image: Shutterstock/Rostislav Ageev.

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