In a series of interviews, Julia Fox describes an encounter with art world titan Chuck Close, Chuck Close in which she says the artist sexually harassed her. (A Yale grad student says she had a similar experience.) Both women separately told HuffPost of having been invited to Close’s studio to pose. They were honored by the artist’s attention but after they arrived shocked by the frankly sexual appeals, and of his offer of money on their way out — payment for modeling for photographs that were never taken.
The encounters didn’t involve physical contact but both incidents left the women feeling shaken and deceived, and they said they were compelled to share their stories in solidarity with the countless women who have silently endured abuse, harassment and discrimination at the hands of powerful men.
In an email to HuffPost, Lance Gotko, a lawyer for Close, wrote:
[T]he bottom line of all the allegations is that no sexual act ever occurred – in fact, Mr. Close never even touched any of your witnesses. The most that can be said about the allegations against Mr. Close is that he uttered some words (some of which were sexually frank) which are alleged to have offended the sensibilities of these adult individuals… This does not come close to reaching the level, and would only serve to cheapen the coin, of the terrible misconduct that rightly has been condemned of late.
Citing his client’s physical infirmities, Gotko added (emphasis in the original) that “if the article has its intended effect it will literally kill Mr. Close.”
That’s some defense. Close is one of THE richest and most successful artists alive today, worth approximately $25 million just a few years ago. His official presidential portrait of Bill Clinton hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and Clinton awarded Close a National Medal of Arts in 2000.
His influence extends throughout and beyond the art world. But Julia Fox tells us of another side. According to her story to HuffPo,
Fox said she met Close in New York in 2013 an three days after their initial meeting, Fox emailed Close to arrange a time to meet. Close invited her to come to his studio on Bond Street in Manhattan on Friday, Oct. 18, to pose for a shoot. In these emails, which Fox shared with HuffPost, neither Fox nor Close discussed the prospect of nudity during the shoot. Fox said she was familiar with Close’s oversize portraits, which are typically close-ups of human faces. She assumed he wanted her to pose for a similar project. Although Fox wasn’t particularly fond of Close’s work, she recognized that he was a “major artist,” and that the chance to be photographed by him represented a rare opportunity.
When Fox arrived at his studio, she said, Close was waiting for her, alone, in his wheelchair. He has used a wheelchair since 1988, following a 20-minute seizure as a result of a collapsed spinal artery. He has limited use of his arms and legs, and when he paints, he has to use a brush harnessed to his wrist.
Fox said that Close began their session by telling her about another woman he’d photographed ― nude ― whose print hung on his wall.
“He was saying, ‘Oh, if you could have seen her pussy,’ talking about how it was so hot and he fucked her.”
The comments made her feel uncomfortable and confused, but Fox says she was a bit out of it from an argument she had with her boyfriend earlier that day.
Then, Fox said, Close asked her to undress. The request took her by surprise.
“I was under the impression that he took portraits, so I just assumed that’s what we would do. So it caught me off guard when he insisted I take my clothes off.”
She said to him,
“I don’t think I can do that.”
Close suggested that he didn’t have to photograph her at all; he just wanted to “see.”
“I just said yes to be polite. In retrospect that is really all it was.”
When she was fully nude, Close moved his toward her so that his head was inches away from her vagina, she said.
“Hmmm. Your pussy looks delicious.”
Fox told Close that she needed to leave and proceeded to put her clothes but Close intercepted her by the door and attempted to give her $200 on her way out.
“I said, ‘I don’t need your money. I remember him looking confused as to why I didn’t want the money.”
For years, Fox never described her meeting with Close to anyone, including her boyfriend and her close friends at the time.
“I felt so much shame about it. I am from New York City. I can usually spot out situations like this. I had higher standards for myself. Obviously he was a fucking pervert.”
Fox didn’t consider telling her story until news of Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior came to light. Fox posted an Instagram story describing her experience. The post was deleted after 24 hours. To this day, Fox has not gone into detail about the experience with people close to her.
“It’s a lot easier to do so with strangers than with family.”
There’s another story about similar behavior on Huffington Post if you care to read it.