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Picasso nude too hot for some travelers at Edinburgh Airport

Carl Court / AFP - Getty Images

"Nude Woman in a Red Armchair" is pictured at the "Picasso and Modern British Art" exhibition at the Tate gallery in London. A poster of the painting is now offending some eyes at Scotland's Edinburgh Airport.

Pablo Picasso’s “Nude Woman in a Red Armchair” apparently has some air travelers seeing red.

But a poster of the painting will get to stay at Edinburgh Airport in Scotland despite an earlier decision by management to cover it up after complaints from passengers.


The poster was hung in the airport’s international arrivals area to advertise the “Picasso & Modern British Art” exhibition now under way at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The image – described by Britain’s Tate museum as “as a series of sensuous curves” -- was apparently too much for some travelers to take. So the airport quickly placed it behind a cover and requested a different poster from the gallery.

On Wednesday, however, airport officials changed their minds.

"We have now reviewed our original decision and reinstated the image," the airport said in a statement to NBC News. 

"The initial decision was a reaction to passenger feedback, which we do always take seriously. However on reflection, we are more than happy to display the image in the terminal and we'd like to apologize - particularly to the exhibition organizers - for the confusion."

The reversal comes after lots of jeers on social media, with Twitter users mocking “prudish passengers” and calling the snafu censorship.

John Leighton, the director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, was incredulous.

“It is obviously bizarre that all kinds of images of women in various states of dress and undress can be used in contemporary advertising without comment, but somehow a painted nude by one of the world's most famous artists is found to be disturbing and has to be removed,” Leighton told the BBC.

But the incident also highlights the wide variety of reactions airports have to deal with when displaying images that will be seen by travelers from cultures from all over the world.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, for example, has a team that evaluates art for exhibits at the world’s busiest airport, said spokeswoman Katena Carvajales, but she declined to comment further.

Certainly, airports must have a certain level of sensitivity when it comes to art and ads, said Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com.

“They have to (show) things that would be socially acceptable to a very general international audience,” Banas said. “But when it comes to something like art, like a Picasso, I just think that’s going too far to feel like you would have to censor that in any way.”

She pointed out that many perfume and clothing ads displayed at airports feature scantily clad models in provocative poses. Meanwhile, the Picasso poster was simply promoting an art exhibit, not displayed for any shock value, Banas said.

“If you’re a traveler, that sort of has an implication that you’re somebody who’s a little more worldly or willing to explore other cultures. You need to be open-minded as well,” she added.

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