Pharrell's new art show, GIRLS — which was named after his recently released album — has just opened at the Galerie Perrotin in Paris.
The exhibition aims to "celebrate women who are above all free, liberated by artists and their boundless, unfettered imagination" and includes several pieces of provocative feminist art which examine gender roles from a critical perspective, by artists such as Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramović, Yoko Ono and Sophie Calle.
However, as Sarah Moroz for The Guardian writes, the show is made "heartbreaking and absurd" by the inclusion of a photograph by Terry Richardson: "The image is a slice of girl shown from belly button to upper thigh, a chocolate heart dangling in front of her vagina with the words 'Eat Me' scrawled in pink. Even if one were to repress the allegations that the photographer is a loathsome sexual predator, the image is a baffling inclusion," she writes.
[To be clear: although several women have come forward with allegations about Richardson's inappropriate and exploitative working methods, the photographer has never been charged.]
"[Richardson] has his own expression," Pharrell told The Guardian's Moroz when she confronted him. "What we were trying to accomplish with this project was to house many different facets of women. This was meant to be a democracy, where people could contribute their views as long as we didn't see it as being outside of what we were trying to do … We want people to talk about these issues; we want to spark conversation… Just because you're a good girl doesn't mean you don't have naughty thoughts."
Emmanuel Perrotin, the gallerist who co-curated the show later approached Moroz to tell her that the accusations against Richardson were all false. He also added: "I saw [Terry Richardson] on many occasions doing photoshoots, and it's a real big party all together; I promise you the woman part of the photoshoot doesn't look a victim of anything."
People have the right to make and display any work of art, but including a piece by Richardson in an art show explicitly dedicated to women's liberation, without being aware of the implications, is an embarrassment — and it raises serious questions about Pharrell and Perrotin's authority and judgment as curators.