London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is facing a backlash for planning to exhibit a portrait of the now-disgraced American actor Kevin Spacey in a show set to open in late April. The actor is currently being trialed in the US for allegedly assaulting an 18-year-old man at a bar in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Spacey has so far been accused of sexual assault by over 12 men, some of whom were teenagers at the time of the incidents, but the Nantucket case is the first to reach criminal charges and carries a potential five year prison sentence.
The museum has defended its decision to exhibit the actor’s portrait and said that the exhibition “aims to provide a record of history while recognizing and encouraging debate around issues affecting contemporary society.” The portrait comes from a series of paintings by Francis Hamel that portray professors of theatre at St. Catherine’s College at the University of Oxford, where Spacey taught in 2008. The museum did not comment on whether or not it will be including information about the allegations Spacey is facing.
A spokesperson for the college’s theatre said that the portrait series is “an accurate historic record of every professor who has occupied” the role, also noting that at the time of Spacey’s appointment and during his tenure, there was no public controversy surrounding him.
The management of the Old Vic theatre in London where Spacey served as artistic director between 2004 and 2015, recently apologized for not properly handling the assault allegations against the actor that were submitted to the institution.
The exhibition, titled Behind the Curtain (April 27-May 19), is set to show the painting during the V&A’s annual performance festival, among 28 other portraits of major figures in film and theatre who have taught at the university, including Ian McKellen and Richard Attenborough.
Rebecca Reid of Good Morning Britain, criticised the move and said: “There is a difference having art that was created in the context in which it existed and newly created art that reflects our current values.”
Fraser Myers, a writer for Spiked, on the other hand, said that the painting is reflective of the actor’s position at the university. “That is a historical fact. To take him out of that collection would be wrong, it would be erasing history.” Myers said on air.