(JTA) — A Belgian model posed naked near the Western Wall in Jerusalem for an exhibition in her native country more than a year after being detained by police in Egypt for doing the same thing in front of old temples.
The photo of Marisa Papen, 26, sunbathing nude on the terrace of a private residence overlooking the Western Wall plaza is on sale in a gallery in the Belgian beach resort of Knokke, the HLN news site reported last week. It’s part of an exhibition titled “Frank Rose — Will Take Cash for Art.”
Titled “Road to Liberation,” the photo shows Papen reclining in a plastic chair with her eyes closed. Her nude body is seen in the foreground; in the background is the women’s section of the Western Wall, often referred to as the holiest site in Judaism. The picture does not include any part of the Al-Aqsa mosque, which towers over the Western Wall plaza and would have been prominently visible from the photographer’s point of view.
“For all the picture’s alleged provocative nature, I think it was edited out,” said Michael Freilich, editor in chief of the Joods Actueel Jewish paper. “I guess they don’t want too much controversy.”
But the photographer, Mathias Lambrecht, told JTA: “The picture is uncropped. The mosque was not in the frame. Nothing to edit out.”
The Foundation for the Heritage of the Western Wall in Israel wrote in a statement Tuesday that “this is a serious and grave incident.” The Western Wall rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitch, said: “This is an unfortunate, awkward and serious incident that unfortunately offends those who worship at this sacred location.”
Another picture, featuring in the invitation to the opening of the exhibition, shows a nude Papen climbing a flagpole from which an Israeli flag waves.
On her blog, Papen posts the Western Wall and flagpole photos as well as three other nude shots in Israel taken during a three-day trip last month. In the post, titled “Wall of Shame,” she wrote: “After my escapades in Egypt, I knew that I wanted to push the bounderies [sic] of regilion [sic] and politics even further. Breaking down the walls that have been build to keep all our wandering souls on this planet somehow under control. With other words, showing my personal religion in a world where freedom is becoming a very luxurious thing.”
Papen was detained in Egypt last year for 24 hours for posing nude at the Karnak Temple Complex.
Freilich said Belgian Jews were indifferent to the incident.
“Art and nudity have been intertwined for centuries, there’s nothing new here,” he said. “The question is whether art remains art when it involves cash and a conscious attempt to provoke and shock.”