PornHub wants to be your guide to the horniest art in museums around the world

Painting titled 'The Birth of Venus' by Sandro Botticelli. Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (...
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

When Toulouse-Lautrec sketched the sex workers of France's red light district in the late nineteenth century, he knew he was doing something subversive. But his art wasn't just famous for being pornographic; he was a pioneer of showing that sex workers were real people. Flash forward to present day, and that notion still seems to be hard for some to accept.

Sex work is real work, and deserves to be dignified as such. While there is, of course, homemade porn and the cheesy kind that really does only have sex in mind, many consider the pornography landscape to be a place for creativity and art making. Enter: Pornhub, which recently launched "Classic Nudes," a new site and app that features pornographic reenactments — created by an amateur couple who goes by MySweetApple — of some of the most lascivious works housed at seven of the world's greatest art museums.

In a restricted video only allowed on Youtube, Hungarian porn star Cicciolina (who it is worth noting was once married to Jeff Koons, with whom she made a series of raunchy artworks in photo and sculpture) walks the viewer through a museum-like set while classical music plays. "There's a treasure trove of priceless porn out there just waiting to be discovered," she says as she prepares, costumed in Renaissance-era regalia. "For years, people have been urging you to go and see, and enjoy every single stroke."

Now that the site and app are live though, some of the museums Pornhub chose to highlight aren't too thrilled. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is suing Pornhub, citing copyright infringement, and demanding the pornographic interpretations of their priceless art works be taken down. The Louvre in Paris also reportedly planned to sue — a spokesperson told The Daily Beast that "Pornhub has heard from our lawyers," while a spokesperson from the Uffizi added, "In Italy, the cultural heritage code provides that in order to use images of a museum, compressed works for commercial purposes, it is necessary to have the permission, which regulates the methods and sets the relative fee to be paid."

It's unclear where the Uffizi or Louvre lawsuits stand at the moment, but while Classic Nudes is still live, as of yesterday the videos for the works from the Uffizi and Louvre were unplayable, and today they have been completely taken down leaving only works from The Met, Museo Del Prado, Musée d’Orsay, The National Gallery and Another Perspective. While the museums might be fair to be annoyed with the site's cheekier feature, in which porn star Asa Akira leads the viewer live through each museum past the "all the prude paintings," it seems a bit far reaching to impose full ownership over any kind of reinterpretation of such famous and old images. Even if they do have a legal case on rites infringement, they certainly don't take the time to go after creators on Etsy who make their own creations based off of famous works.

For centuries, porn could only depicted through the mediums we now see in those very museums: paint, sculpture, and drawing. Porn wasn't born with the advent of the video camera. In fact, it can easily be argued that certain marble statues of the Greeks, Tibetan monuments, images of Pompeii, among others, are all pornographic in nature. Why then, is it so upsetting to some when Pornhub has turned that idea around to put those classical nudes in a modern format and transformed pornographic classic works of art into contemporary porn?

Western art has always had a turbulent relationship with nudity though. In Arthur Frederick Ide's academic blog on the subject, he notes that The Council of Trent "condemned nudity in religious art while most of the bishops and cardinals maintained pornography in their personal collections." Regardless, it was mandated by Pope Paul IV in 1557 that fig leaves be painted to conceal genitals in religious art. So while western religious art has long had to grapple with its nudity, the works that Pornhub is using were transgressive upon their inception. Why not let their legacy continue to evolve?

Honestly, I found Pornhub's presentation of Classic Nudes to be downright classy. The tame, creative and tasteful announcement video was a great start, and on the site itself are beautiful fonts set over the paintings themselves with captions that explain their eroticism, which might inspire further appreciation of the art in a viewer. Hell, they're even encouraging viewers to go to the museums themselves. It begs the question of if these museums would be so upset if Pornhub was recreating eastern art as porn, but mostly it just feels like the art world has a stigma against the porn world. Regardless, as Cicciolina retorts in Pornhub's announcement video, "Porn may not be considered art, but some art can definitely be considered porn."