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Museum of Sex sued for using photo of woman kissing ex in promos

She’s not gonna let them get off.

The Museum of Sex has been using a photo of a New York artist kissing her then-girlfriend — plastering it on subway ads, sidewalk LED displays and on its website and social media accounts — for years without her consent or paying her a dime, she alleges in a new lawsuit.

Julia Sinelnikova, 34, claims the Midtown museum has been using the personal September 2019 snap to “boost ticket sales” for more than four years — but never bothered to consult her about it, according to her Manhattan Supreme Court suit, which seeks $275,000 in compensation.

“It’s me doing an intimate act with a person I haven’t spoken to in years,” Sinelnikova, of Ridgewood, Queens, told The Post in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

The Museum of Sex has been using a photo of a Brooklyn artist kissing her ex to “boost ticket sales” without her consent or paying her a dime, a suit claims. Courtesy of Julia Sinelnikova

“It’s not representative of me in my life right now.”

The sculptor — whose art studio is on the border of Bushwick, Brooklyn and Ridgewood — said she only realized the extent of the photo’s reach when dozens of “acquaintances” reached out to her asking about the image in late 2023, according to Sinelnikova and the suit filed earlier this month.

The picture shows Sinelnikova smooching her now-ex-girlfriend, who at the time worked as a front desk employee at the Fifth Avenue museum, at the cultural institution’s “Superfunland” exhibit.

The pair were taking snaps for social media when someone photographing the exhibit snapped a photo of them, Sinelnikova said.

The museum “did not tell [Sinelnikova] that the photographs would be used commercially or for advertising purposes at any time,” the Feb. 4 filing charges.

All while, “the photo has been seen by hundreds of thousands or millions of New Yorkers and visitors to New York.”

Sinelnikova said the image has been plastered all over the city. Courtesy of Julia Sinelnikova

“Ticket sales increased” for the museum after it began using the photo in its marketing materials for Superfunland, the suit states, and Sinelnikova noted that the exhibit, which was only supposed to be temporary, instead became permanent.

Sinelnikova had seen the image in promotional materials for the exhibit in 2019, but when acquaintances began reaching out about it late last year, she realized the snap had also been used on subway ads, sidewalk LED displays, in posters outside the museum and on its website and social media accounts, the suit states.

One of the social media posts that included the kissing image amassed more than a million views, Sinelnikova said.

The revelation was “shocking,” she told The Post.

“This is the most egregious visible public theft of my image that I’ve ever experienced,” Sinelnikova said, noting that as an artist who also models, she’s sadly grown used to companies and others allegedly illegally using photos of her art or of herself from modeling gigs.

Sinelnikova confronted the museum about the alleged flagrant violation and museum director Daniel Gluck admitted the wrongdoing in a Jan. 15 email, the suit alleges.

Julia Sinelnikova, 34, claims the museum has been using the personal September 2019 snap to “boost ticket sales” for more than 4 years but never bothered to consult her about it, according to her Manhattan Supreme Court suit. Paul Martinka

“My apologies for the unauthorized use of your image I am dumbfounded no one got your permission at the time,” Gluck wrote in the email, according to the court papers.

Sinelnikova said the museum offered her a measly $2,000 to settled the issue — which she said was “an insult” and not even enough to cover a month’s rent.

She countered and asked for 500 tickets to the museum — worth $25,000 — still knowing it was less than what she believes she should have been paid, Sinelnikova said.

But the museum wasn’t willing to negotiate, instead choosing to lawyer up and threatening to sue her for defamation, she claimed.

“Just knowing the other party has already acknowledged harming me and is willing to spend money – a good amount of money – on a Manhattan law firm to continue harming me in a pretty public way … the intent seems pretty cruel,” Sinelnikova said.

“It’s me doing an intimate act with a person I haven’t spoken to in years,” Sinelnikova, of Ridgewood, Queens, told The Post in an exclusive interview Wednesday. Paul Martinka

The museum has continued to use the photo since the suit was filed, and Sinelnikova said she is waiting for the institution’s attorneys to respond in court next month so she can seek an injunction for them to stop using the image.

“We will ensure our client is fairly compensated for the use of their image in an amount to be determined by a jury,” her lawyer, Andrew Muchmore, told The Post.

Robert Basil, a lawyer with the museum, told The Post they are working to get all the images of Sinelnikova taken down, noting it has asked the MTA to remove ads featuring the photo from the subways.

Basil claimed that Sinelkova was one of 12 models asked to come in for a photoshoot back in 2019 and that all of them had signed releases except for her.

“And that’s admittedly an oversight by us,” he said.

The sculptor, whose art studio is on the border of Bushwick, Brooklyn and Ridgewood said she only realized the extent of the photo’s reach when dozens of “acquaintances” reached out to her asking about the image in late 2023. Paul Martinka

“We didn’t follow up. Nonetheless, if you look at the images, I don’t believe you can tell it’s her.”

Basel argued that based on her claims, Sinelkova — who he noted posted a photo on Instagram in 2019 fawning over the ad campaign that she appeared in — would only be allowed to seek a maximum of $2,000 in damages under state law.

“The statute sets the damages at $2,000 and we were happy to pay her but we feel she and her attorney are being extortionate and they want the large settlement that isn’t warranted,” the lawyer said.

Written by SaleemBaloch

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