MFA cancels Kimono Wednesdays after protesters called it racist

BOSTON ( -- The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is canceling "Kimono Wednesdays" after protesters called the event as racist.

The museum has now made the decision not to let anyone try the kimono on, but you can still walk up to it and touch it and feel how heavy it must have been for Claude Monet's wife to wear a similar one to pose for a painting.

In the Impressionist gallery at the MFA Wednesday night, museum visitors were talking about more than just impressionism. They're talking about ethnic sensitivity and political correctness, debating the merits of the museum's about-face decision to no longer allow visitors to try on a replica of the kimono in Claude Monet's painting titled “La Japonaise.”

The kimono was donated to the museum after the MFA loaned the panting to several museums in Japan last year. It was actually a Japanese television station who came up with the idea to recreate the kimono in the painting, and allow visitors to try it on. The MFA's deputy director says it was a hit in Japan, so they brought the idea here.

Katie Getchell, MFA deputy director, said, "The original intent was to have people have a tactile experience of the kimono, understand it's weight, it's craftsmanship."

Every Wednesday night in July, the museum offers free admission and lectures about the “La Japonaise” painting. But the so-called "Kimono Wednesdays" drew cries of racism from one group who started a website called Stand Against Yellowface and who have been bringing their protests directly to the exhibit.

Protester Amber Ying said, "We understand the museum is trying to invite the public to experience history and get a better understanding of the history behind the painting. However, doing it in this fashion it is recreating the racism that was part of the time."
The painting was created in the late 19th century during a period when Europeans were fascinated by Japanese culture. Ying, who is a Harvard grad student, says the period and painting have racist undertones.

Her group says the move to no longer try on the kimonos is a good first step, but they'd like to see placards that explain the context, and more
community input.

The MFA says everyone is welcome to participate in their Wednesday night discussions in July.