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Art or obscenity? A nude model is arrested at the Met

August 27, 2009 | 10:00 am


Venus de Milo, Liberty leading the people, Lady Godiva ... and next?

Nudity has been a staple of the visual arts since time began, but apparently the real thing is still too much for some people to handle.

On Wednesday, a 26-year-old model was arrested in New York after posing for a photo shoot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Police said Kathleen Neill was posing naked for a photographer in full view of visitors at a gallery in the museum's arms and armor department.

Neill has been charged with two crimes: endangering the welfare of a minor and public lewdness, according to her lawyer, Donald Schechter. She was released from police custody Wednesday and is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 22.

"She didn't do anything sexual. She didn't perform lewdly and she made no reference to her genitalia," Schechter said in an interview with Culture Monster.

"There are nude sculptures and paintings all over the museum. It's the height of stupidity accusing a live model of showing the same thing in a house of art."

The photo shoot was conducted by Brooklyn-based photographer Zach Hyman for an upcoming art show. (Hyman has not been charged with any crimes so far.) "It's a project I've been working on for three months now -- it's the idea that nudity isn't necessarily perverse or sexual," he said in a phone interview today.  

Hyman didn't have formal permission to photograph in the museum but he said that "people take personal pictures there all the time." 

A museum employee who was passing through the gallery stopped the photo shoot and escorted the pair to the front of the building to wait for police. 

When asked for a comment, the museum issued the following statement: "As a nonprofit institution on city-owned land, the Met, like all other individual and institutional citizens, is subject to municipal laws, rules, and regulations."

Hyman's photography exhibition is planned to open Sept. 3 at the Chair and the Maiden Gallery in Manhattan. 

-- David Ng

Photo: a view of the Metropolitan Museum's arms and armor gallery. Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art