Artist Chuck Close apologises after accusations of sexual harassment from women who posed for him

Several women complained that the celebrated artist Chuck Close asked them to pose naked and made inappropriate sexual comments.
Several women complained that the celebrated artist Chuck Close asked them to pose naked and made inappropriate sexual comments.PHOTO: NYTIMES

(NYTimes) - Chuck Close, the acclaimed artist whose massive portraits reside in the world's top museums, is facing allegations from several women that he sexually harassed them when they came to his studio to pose for him.

Two women recently told The New York Times that Close had asked them to model naked for him, requests that made them feel exploited and uncomfortable. And on Tuesday (Dec 19), HuffPost published similar accounts from women, including one who described stripping in front of Close. HuffPost reported he then moved towards her in his wheelchair and said her private parts looked "delicious".

In an interview on Wednesday, Close, 77, denied making this comment but acknowledged that he has spoken to women candidly and even crudely about their body parts. He said he did so in the interests of evaluating them as possible subjects, and he said he apologised if he had made women feel uncomfortable. He said he had brought women to his studio for artistic reasons, and generally paid them to audition for photographs, since he occasionally produces daguerreotype nudes, several of which were featured in a 2014 survey at his gallery, Pace.

"I'm inviting them to my studio to audition. I don't have a camera there, so I have to see their bodies - it's a very expensive process," he said. "I've never had a complaint in 50 years, not one."

"Last time I looked, discomfort was not a major offence," he added. "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."

Modelling nude for artists is an age-old tradition. But there is an unofficial code of conduct associated with painting someone nude that includes keeping the atmosphere professional and avoiding personal questions.

According to the women who spoke to The Times and HuffPost, Close violated this code, holding out the prospect of their being painted by a venerated artist to lure them to his studio with what seemed to them no real artistic intent or result.