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National Gallery Delays 2 Upcoming Shows After Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Updated Saturday at 11:47 a.m. ET

The National Gallery of Art in Washington says it has postponed two upcoming solo exhibitions following allegations of sexual misconduct against their artists, Chuck Close and Thomas Roma.

Close, a painter and photographer, is best known for his close-up portraits of faces — many of them famous, such as Brad Pitt and Kate Moss. Roma, a photographer, taught at Columbia University until recently and focuses his work on scenes in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Both men have been subjects of recent misconduct allegations by multiple women.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday it was the first time the museum had canceled shows because of "public allegations against the featured artists, according to Anabeth Guthrie, the National Gallery's chief of communications."

Guthrie confirmed the accuracy of the report to NPR's Elizabeth Blair, but later clarified that the exhibits were being postponed, not canceled.

"We have great respect for their work," Guthrie said in a statement about the Close and Roma installations. "Given the recent attention on their personal lives, we discussed postponement of the installations with each artist. All parties involved acknowledged that it is not the appropriate time to present these installations."

Close's exhibition had been scheduled to open in May, and Roma's was slated for September. After the postponement, the National Gallery did not say when they expect to show their installations.

Close reportedly sexually harassed women who came to pose for him in his studio, according to reports published in The New York Times and Huffington Post. The allegations detail him unexpectedly asking multiple women to pose nude for him, in some cases asking intimate questions about personal grooming and making lewd comments about a woman's vagina.

Close himself cast doubt on the accounts. "I never reduced anyone to tears, no one ever ran out of the place. If I embarrassed anyone or made them feel uncomfortable, I am truly sorry, I didn't mean to. I acknowledge having a dirty mouth, but we're all adults," he told the Times.

Roma repeatedly made sexual advances on female students, according to five of his accusers who spoke on the record to the Times. The newspaper writes that a lawyer for Roma "disputes any suggestion that his behavior was ever coercive."

As Elizabeth reported, "Roma retired from his position at Columbia the day after the Times report was published."

NPR's Amy Held contributed to this report

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.

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