A Miriam Cahn Painting Will Stay in the Palais de Tokyo

A Miriam Cahn Painting Describing Russian War Crimes Will Stay in the Palais de Tokyo, a French Judge Reached a Decision.

Mar 30, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
A Miriam Cahn Painting
The Palais de Tokyo


A Miriam Cahn Painting, titled “fuck abstraction!” will remain in the Palais de Tokyo. Overall, the painting depicts Russian war crimes. A right-wing French political party petitioned to remove Miriam Khan’s painting from the exhibition. The case reached the court. But, French administrative judge Sylvie Vidal refused the petition for removing the painting from the museum.


A Miriam Cahn Painting Depists a Child Abuse?

A Miriam Cahn Painting
The Palais de Tokyo


Members of the political party wanted the painting removed, because they thought it depicted child abuse. The aim of the painting is to condemn sexual crimes that are used as weapons of war. The plaintiffs—six associations led by the Association Juristes Pour L’Enfance. They believed there was a child on the work of art and demanded a ban on the work based on French law.


Overall, French law prohibits pornographic displays of children. The museum also issued a statement in which the artist spoke about the event. She said there is no child in the painting, but that the victim is shown in small dimensions for symbolic reasons. “The contrast between the two bodies shows the corporeal power of the oppressor, and the fragility of the oppressed, on their knees and emaciated by war”, said the artist.


A Miriam Cahn Painting
Miriam Cahn. Photo by Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images.


The judge Sylvie Vidal agreed with the artist’s position. In her verdict, the judge said the act represents crimes committed in Ukraine by Russia. She also said it “people can’t understand it outside of its context”, adding the artist “aims to denounce the horrors of war”. The fact the museum also warned visitors about the sensitive content went in favor of the verdict. The painting was part of an exhibition called “Ma Pensée Serielle”, [My Serial Thought].

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The Debate Even Got to the Parliament

The Palais de Tokyo
The Palais de Tokyo


This case received a lot of attention in the public as well as in the media. When it comes to the media there were mostly far-right platforms and spokespeople. Around 13,000 people signed the petition for forbidding the work’s display. It reached its climax last week when the discussion reached the parliament. Rima Abdul Malak, France’s minister of culture, was compelled to defend the artist and her creations.

The center did not deny the possibility of various reactions when they exhibited the work. But, center representatives said as long as it is in the context, discomfort is essential to the production of art and the right to free speech. “We know the painting is shocking—though it is not pedo-pornographic”, Palais de Tokyo lawyer Paul Mathonnet defended the work.

fuck abstraction!
Miriam Cahn, fuck abstraction! (2007-2022).


“It would be excessive and would violate the freedom to create, if we were to completely forbid the painting… If we go in that direction, we’ll have to start emptying out museums, and closing a lot of galleries. All museums show sexually explicit and violent works”, the museum added. The art center expressed sadness about “the instrumentalization” of Cahn’s work by fringe organizations in a statement praising the court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit.
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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.