OnlyFans is not typically the home of fine art, at least by most definitions. But with art museums running into censorship on platforms like Facebook and TikTok, they’ve found a niche to share classic works of art with a new audience.
The Vienna Tourist Board turned to social media for outreach during the pandemic. With museums in Austria required to be closed for much of 2020, it was important for the art-rich city to keep being able to share its wealth of art.
The Albertina, an Austrian museum that houses original art by Monet, Picasso, and hundreds of others, was suspended and then banned from TikTok for featuring their exhibition of the artist and photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, whose subjects are often topless women.
Instagram, which explicitly allows “nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures,” flagged the Albertina’s posts featuring a 430-year-old painting by Peter Paul Rubens, the 16th century Flemish artist. The museum was required to take those images down to protect their account from “a community violation.”
Even natural history museums aren’t immune. Vienna’s Natural History Museum posted a photo of the Venus of Willendorf figurine, a nearly-abstract carving showing a faceless woman’s figure. Facebook removed the picture, calling it pornographic. Facebook also took down a post by the Leopold Museum of a painting by 19th century Austrian painter Koloman Moser, for being “potentially pornographic.”
Most of these decisions are made not by human reviewers, but by a programmed algorithm that is triggered by people reporting posts. So, this censorship comes from a combination of pearl-clutching people who can’t stand to see even a hint of arbitrarily sexualized imagery and a computer with no awareness of nuance.
OnlyFans is explicitly a sex-positive social media platform most commonly associated with amateur sex-work. And it might just be the new go-to home for fine art that’s too “pornographic” for traditional social media platforms.
“Right now, an algorithm determines what is okay to see and what is not,” said Helena Hartlauer, a spokesperson for the Vienna Tourist Board. “And it definitely should not determine our cultural legacy.”