NEW YORK—In response to demands that the Metropolitan Museum of Art remove Balthus’ “Thérèse Dreaming,” PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel issued the statement below.

“We are alarmed about what seems to be a rising tendency to turn to artistic censorship as a way to express social, political, or other grievances. Some advocates seem to have decided that artists and art institutions represent soft targets, more vulnerable to public campaigns than are the actual power structures that perpetuate the ills these campaigners are fighting against. But any victories they achieve against artists will be pyrrhic. Censoring art does nothing to address serious issues of social, racial or gender justice, but rather deflects debate away from the imperative of reforms to achieve greater justice and equality. These distracting calls for censorship almost inevitably characterize works divorced from the context in which they were created or are presented.

Art has always been provocative, boundary-defying, and thought-provoking. The idea that any particular set of norms, values, or orthodoxies should be extended to govern the bounds of the permissible in art would constrict the landscape for creativity and self expression and would impair the breadth and diversity of art and ideas available to us all.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator:, +1.646.981.0685