Jewish Museum Removes Artwork Featuring Photos From a Gay Dating Site Taken at Berlin's Holocaust Memorial

Jewish Museum Removes Artwork Featuring Photos From a Gay Dating Site Taken at Berlin's Holocaust Memorial
Marc Adelman at The Holocaust Memorial, the backdrop for his "Stelen (Columns)" series

NEW YORK — A man in Germany has confronted Marc Adelman, an artist based in San Francisco, after finding out that his dating site profile photo was used in an artwork included in "Composed: Identity, Politics, Sex," an exhibition currently on view at the Jewish Museum in New York. Titled "Stelen (Columns)" (2007-2011), Adelman's installation was made from a grid of 150 photos appropriated from GayRomeo, each of which featured a user posing at Berlin's Peter Eisenman-designed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

In an email to ARTINFO, the museum's director of communications Anne Scher wrote that the work was included for the way it engages "with conventions of art history and forms of popular culture while exploring overlapping national, ethnic, and sexual identities." Many critics have written about "Stelen (Columns)" approvingly, and many viewers have been amused by its dark but playful irony (similar in spirit to the Tumblr site Hot Chicks Smiling at Ground Zero). Others contend that the work exploits the dating site's users and invades their privacy. 

Tim Rooks, for his part, was not amused when he first discovered his image in the work after reading an article about it on the Huffington Post. He immediately contacted the Jewish Museum, telling them he had never given Adelman permission to use his image, and has since managed to elicit an apology from the artist. "It is irresponsible of the artist and the museum to show such images," he told the Bay Area Reporter, an LGBT-oriented publication based in San Francisco. "Even without my name attached numerous people saw it and knew who I was."

The Jewish Museum's response was prompt. Scher told ARTINFO that "as issues have been raised with respect to this work, in consultation with Mr. Adelman, we have removed Stelen (Columns) from the in-gallery exhibition and images from the work from our website." No comments were made about future plans for the artwork, which, like the other works in "Composed," is described on their Web site as part of "the museum's permanent exhibition." Beyond the work's removal from the show, it remains unclear what recourse the artist's subjects may take against him or the museum.