While news about hundreds of nude celebrity photos stolen from Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and others have thrown the Internet into a frenzy, one artist has decided to take advantage of the madness.
Los Angeles artist XVALA will showcase some uncensored images of the stars, among others, as part of his new exhibition, titled “No Delete,” next month at Cory Allen Contemporary Art’s The Showroom in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“We share our secrets with technology,” XVALA said in a statement describing the project. “And when we do, our privacy becomes accessible to others.”
On the gallery’s Web site, XVALA’s states his goal is to “disappear from the Internet.”
XVALA has become a connoisseur of personal, illicit celebrity images on the Internet — he’s been building a collection via Google for years for this art project. The release notes he gained attention in 2007 by elaborately framing a photo of Britney Spears with a shaved head. He also posted the stolen nude Scarlett Johansson pictures around Los Angeles; he used “Fear Google” stickers he created to cover the “intimate” areas on the photos. Those and many more will be included in the “No Delete” exhibit.
The exhibit immediately drew criticism and accusations of exploitation for displaying the stolen explicit photos in a public space. “We don’t condone anybody hacking or taking advantage of anyone. This is not about that. The artist is trying to make a statement,” said publicist Cory Allen, who owns the gallery.
XVALA’s project is a commentary on the current social climate and how no one has privacy in the digital age, Allen said. It also involves ideas about the culture of fame and celebrity, and how everyone feels entitled to know information about people in the spotlight.
One problem with the recently leaked photos — both Lawrence and Upton’s representatives have promised legal action against anyone who published or distributed them. Plus, there’s that whole matter of the FBI investigating the situation.
“We’re not sharing or posting the images – the artist is creating art out of the images,” said Allen when asked about the possible legal ramifications. He added they haven’t looked closely into the legal attributes of it yet, since XVALA has been working on the exhibit for such a long time; he plans to make canvas prints out of these particular photos.
Why now? The two had been discussing this idea for awhile, but when the Lawrence story broke this week, it seemed like the right time to set a date for the exhibit. Especially because many people started getting angry when they realized the lack of security that exists for anyone at any time. “We immediately saw the dialogue that was happening and felt strongly that it was time to act,” Allen said.
The Lawrence and Upton photos, he clarified, are only a small part of the exhibit — XVALA’s other photos that he’s been collecting for years will make up the rest of the project. There are photos of many other stars, men and women, in various states. Not all of them are nude. “In fact, a large portion of them aren’t,” Allen said.
He said that despite criticisms of the exhibit, they’re not trying to “exploit” anyone. It’s more about “how we exploited ourselves” as a society.
XVALA doesn’t appear too concerned about consequences. “I hope we don’t need an attorney,” he told LA Weekly. “I’m taking them off the Internet and putting them into a new medium that is transformative. I’ll be using them as commentary.”
The Showroom, described as “the world’s first public relations gallery,” is supposed to “blend the mechanics of public relations and the traditional characteristics of a fine arts gallery into an installation that mirrors the internet.”
“XVALA appropriating celebrity compromised images and the overall ‘Fear Google’ campaign has helped strengthen the ongoing debate over privacy in the digital era,” Allen said in the release. “The commentary behind this show is a reflection of who we are today.”