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Presidential nude out of museum

WASHINGTON – A cartoonish painting of President Bush in the nude has been taken down from the wall at the City Museum of Washington.

The picture, called “Man of Leisure, King George,” adopts the pose of a famous Impressionist painting, Edouard Manet’s “Olympia,” that scandalized Paris in 1863 and now hangs in the city’s Gare d’Orsay Museum.

The painting by local artist Kayti Didriksen shows a caricature of Bush, reclining in the nude on a chaise lounge, his head propped up by pillows.

Instead of the female servant who stands behind Olympia’s couch, a man in suit and tie resembling Vice President Dick Cheney stands nearby, holding a cushion with a crown and a miniature oil rig on top of it.

The painting was part of a “living room art” show called “Funky Furniture” – a variety of painted furniture and other items set up in the museum last week.

Expected to formally open this month, the show, including the Bush painting, was abruptly shut down Monday after some of the artists’ themes were considered unsuitable.

Myra Peabody Gossens, a public relations consultant for the museum, said the exhibit didn’t turn out as expected.

“The museum is not an art museum,” she explained. “It gets mostly groups of children, with teachers trying to tell them something about history.”

In addition to the Bush painting, the exhibit included a decorated church pew with pictures and writing that accused former President Reagan of ignoring the AIDS crisis and an end table decorated with drug paraphernalia with a quote from former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry, who was jailed for drug possession.

“This is not what we were bargaining for. We thought we were getting functional furniture,” Leslie Shapiro, co-chairman of the museum’s board of directors, told the Washington Post.

The City Museum of Washington, operated by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., is primarily a place where local and regional history is on display. The museum’s executive board decided the museum was “not an appropriate venue” for the exhibit.

Art-O-Matic 2004, a confederation of local artists which organized the project, is looking for another space to house the exhibit, said Jim Tretick, a member of the group’s board of directors.

“About a dozen people may have seen it on Sunday,” Tretick said. “The exhibit wasn’t completely mounted. Then it was taken down on Monday when the museum was closed.”


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