‘Uglier and Uglier’, a controversial artwork that ranked photos and videos of 5,000 different real-life women from ugly to ugliest, was removed by a Shanghai-based gallery following public outcry.

Created by male Chinese artist Song Ta, ‘Uglier and Uglier’ featured photos and clips of thousands of women on a university campus ranked by how unattractive he found them. Song reportedly created the controversial exhibit in 2013 and showcased it in several art galleries since, but its latest outing at the OCAT Shanghai gallery was met with so much criticism from the public that it was eventually taken down. The fact that Song Ta once said that he and his assistants ranked the women depicted in his artwork from “forgivably ugly” to “unforgivably ugly” might have had something to do with people’s reaction to the exhibit…

“After receiving criticism, we re-evaluated the content of this artwork and the artist’s explanation, we found it disrespected women, and the way it was shot has copyright infringement issues,” OCAT Shanghai announced on Weibo. “As a museum that supports diversity, we will take this as a warning, improve our services and treat everyone with empathy.”

In a 2019 interview with VICE Magazine, Song Ta defended his controversial artwork by saying that he had “the right to tell the truth”. He also admitted that he hurt the people he labeled as “ugly”, but argued that at least he was honest about the ranking.

“In the end, it was scary … they were normal people, not missing an arm or an ear or an eye, but just so ugly that it made people uncomfortable,” Song said. “I objectify you in an honest way, that’s a type of respect. I will not randomly rank you first place, that’s disrespect, that’s toying you with clever words.”

Many of the people outraged by ‘Uglier and Uglier’ took to social media to accuse Song Ta of being misogynistic and objectifying women.

“It’s already 2021, how can you still objectify women so boldly, without any shame?” one person wrote.

“This artwork is not only insulting but infringes on individuals’ portrait rights, and these women didn’t even know they were being filmed,” another commented.

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