The National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance of nonprofit groups supporting free speech and civil liberties, has criticized the cancellation and postponement of Kehinde Wiley shows in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.

Wiley, best known for his portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama, has denied allegations of sexual assault made last month by Ghanian art figure Joseph Awuah-Darko and two other men that later came forward.

Still, in the wake of the allegations, the Joslyn Museum of Art in Omaha, Nebraska, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Prez Art Museum Miami have shelved or postponed exhibitions of his work.

While the NCAC agreed that the allegations against Wiley are serious and concerning, the coalition argued that museums are not equipped to be moral arbiters.

His stature as an artist would in no way excuse any such alleged behaviors or lessen their impacts, NCAC said. But the response of cultural institutionsto immediately rescind plans to exhibit the artists worksdoes a disservice to the audiences who wish to experience the work of one of the nations most well-recognized artists.

The coalition said the response by the three museums implied a practice of scrutinizing the personal conduct of all artists they exhibit, saying that institutions are not equipped or mandated to be enforcers of moral orthodoxy.

Instead, the coalition suggested that museums should contextualize artworks that have artistic merit rather than canceling the artists. Doing so, it said, would reduce the “complexity and quantity of art eligible for exhibition.” As examples, it pointed to noted artists with “moral flaws,” such as Caravaggio, who was convicted for murder, and Picasso, who was known to be abusive to his lovers.

Museums are, or at least should be, equipped to host exhibitions that probe the complexity of given artworks at the time in which they are presented, and host important discussions about ethical conflicts, should the need for them arise,” the coalition added.

The group called on the leadership behind the Joslyn, Prez, and Minneapolis museums to go ahead with their respective Kehinde Wiley exhibitions, while acknowledging the allegations against the artist. It further urged all museums to adopt clear free speech guidelines for future exhibitions.

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