Guerrilla Girls: “Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum?”

This 1989 poster is one of the first posters created by the Guerrilla Girls in direct response to one of the most significant events in their career. It was commissioned to be a billboard by the Public Art Fund in New York but was rejected for not being clear enough. The ad ran on New York city buses until it was taken down for lewdness due to the nude subject. Either way, it is one of their most iconic ad campaigns and is epochal of their style. The poster features one of the most famous nudes in the western tradition by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) entitled La Grande Odalisque 1814 but subverted by changing the woman’s head to be a gorilla, leaving their mark on the image. The piece has the words “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female” which points out much of the hypocrisy of the art world around female bodies. The style of the poster calls upon similar ad campaigns of the time for objects like dishwashers and other appliances. The work stands apart because it uses this common medium and design to transfer a very different message about sexism in the art world to everyday people. The use of saturated complementary colours causes the white and black of the image to stand out from the page. The type falls outside of conventions for the time, however, and fall more in line with the protest posters of the period.