Naked Object of Desire

Shock of the Nude

Art or Titillation?

There are concerns that female nudes in western art are
soft porn for the elite, dressed up in a classical guise.

There’s a big difference between nakedness [to be
without clothes] and nudity [a naked body on display.

In the average European oil painting of the nude,
the principal protagonist is never painted.

The Male Gaze

The spectator in front of the picture is presumed to be
a man. The figures have assumed their nudity for him.

The female nude as a subject for art is so common
that we barely notice it embodies the primacy of
the heterosexual male as patron and collector.
It acknowledges only one kind of desire.

To criticize nude art as soft porn for the elite is
to assume that honesty about our enjoyment of
the revealed body somehow lessens the art.
That art should be above that. This is naive.

Setting aside questions of exploitation, there is
nothing wrong with looking at something we enjoy,
that excites us, that recognises our desires.

Describing our museum collections in terms
of pornography acknowledges the interplay
of power, gender and sexuality on which
they are constructed.

nude study

The Porn Gallery
Is Now Open

The gallery focuses on visionaries who
take a stand against respectability and
politics, pushing the limits of imagery.

The male gaze has always dominated popular erotica,
but these artists disrupt this long and troubled
history by carving out their own erotic space.

The show attempts a serious dialogue between art and porn,
divorcing the erotic female body from its objecthood
as a pure means for sexual arousal and gratification.

Odd Nerdrum – the Norwegian king of a new kind of kitsch – made brilliant post-modern paintings of nude men and women – refugees trapped in the volcanic Icelandic landscape – emulating the style of a latter-day Rembrandt.

Costumed in robes and ragged furs, he painted himself as a gold-gowned priapic priest with an ambitious erection, and painted naked women defecating. Like a post-modern monk he rode the shock-art wave.

Nerdrum was a refugee from the spectacle of his own time, and his nudes sold for serious money to his admirers, including androgynous rock-god David Bowie.

Wrapped in the prophylaxis of irony and estrangement, his nineties nudes were neither dead nor alive, and after the millennium turned his aughties exiles soaked in the weird hot springs of an apocalyptic arcadia.

Women filled traditional roles as nurturing mothers and men were rifle-slinging protectors, but both genders lived in eerie alienation and were joined by alchemical hermaphrodites.

Evading feminist critique by envelopment in a miasma of apocalyptic mystique, Nerdrum’s nudes were the painted embodiments of the cosplay zeitgeist of the turning of the millennium.

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