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Nude artist claims museum 'turned a blind eye' to 'sexual assaults' by visitors

A nude artist is suing New York's Museum of Modern Art for allegedly failing to stop visitors from groping him.

John Bonafede, who took part in a Marina Abramovic exhibition in 2010 called The Artist is Present, has accused MoMA of failing to prevent sexual assaults against him by museum-goers.

In the lawsuit, he claims the museum "had actual knowledge of ongoing sexual assaults against many of its worker-performers in the exhibition", including himself, "yet it intentionally and negligently failed to take corrective action to prevent the assaults from recurring".

Mr Bonafede, a professional artist, worked and performed live in the exhibition for the full duration of its run.

One piece he took part in involved standing face-to-face with another exhibition performer in a doorway "silent, still, and completely nude", 18ins apart, court papers state, and members of the public were encouraged to pass in between them from one gallery to the next.

The lawsuit claims he was "sexually assaulted" on "seven occasions" during his work for the exhibition by five different visitors.

Mr Bonafede, who is seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial, claimed the assaults were "eerily similar", with the alleged perpetrators "always an older male".

They would turn to face him and "fondle and/or grope" his "genitals", he claimed. The perpetrators would then linger "for a moment before moving through into the next gallery room".

Mr Bonafede claimed he did not report the first incident, largely because he was in a "state of shock", but did tell security and the exhibition's stage manager about the others.

In the lawsuit filed in New York State court on Monday, he said he agreed to stay on because organisers had pushed a "tough it out" culture.

Mr Bonafede claimed that although the alleged offenders were removed from the exhibition, the MoMA "turned a blind eye" and did nothing to protect performers from being assaulted in the first place.

According to the court documents, one of the alleged perpetrators was a MoMA corporate member, who had his membership revoked.

The lawsuit, which is being brought under New York's Adult Survivors Act, claims it caused him to suffer years of "emotional distress" and his mental health, body image and career to be "significantly harmed".

Sky News has contacted MoMA for comment.

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Several media outlets reported at the time that a number of nude models taking part in the exhibition had complained of being groped by visitors.

"We are well aware of the challenges posed by having nude performers in the galleries," the museum said in a statement then.

"Any visitor who improperly touches or disturbs any of the performers is escorted from the museum by MoMA security."

A similar Abramovic exhibition took place at the Royal Academy of Arts in central London last year.