Seaside postcards: Spencer Tunick in Folkestone

June 6, 2014 · Print This Article

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Museums at Night appears yet to reach the US, but if any cultural impresarios are reading, this concept is ripe for import. In the UK it’s an annual extravaganza which sees nearly 500 museums throwing open their doors after hours. It generates crowds, good will and new audiences, taking its cue in turn from continental Europe where the phenomenon first took root in Germany in 1997.

On May 17th, event co-ordinators Culture24 sent me to a small coastal town in Kent  which, thanks to the festive circumstances, was hosting a world famous artist. The venue was Georges House, Folkestone, and the big name draw was Spencer Tunick, known best for photographing nudes in their hundreds and thousands. Yes, whole crowds of people in the buff.

This project, which often gets the wrong kind of attention, makes most sense when you learn about Tunick’s upbringing. His father was a photographer and an entrepreneur. He would shoot folk on holiday, develop the film as fast as possible, then return to the scene to sell back his images to his more or less willing subjects. Tunick became an apprentice who learned early what it meant to deal with crowds.

His Museums at Night project has been developed with arts organisation Strange Cargo and entailed the capture of more than 150 nudes on the Folkestone seafront. The results were slotted into key-chain viewfinders, such as his father would have used. Tunick calls these scopes, and the show here in Folkestone involves the installation of these colourful creations, each one lit with LED lights.

The installation is in reassuringly good taste. Perspex housing hangs from the ceiling and divides the room. As you peer into each scope, you cannot but be aware of the people to your right, left, and on the other side of the divide, the people in front. There is nothing furtive about the experience, which may be why participants all appear to be so happy with the results.

One woman even hands me her scope, giving me little choice but to put the plastic gizmo to my eye and get an eyeful. I tell her the photo is “beautiful” and we go on chatting about other things. Well, it is certainly an icebreaker. It turns out she too is a photographer, with a specialism in self portraiture, also nude. “Sara’s an artist,” Tunick tells me. “You should discover her!”

Certainly, there are plenty of discoveries to be made here. Another woman searches for her scope and asks, “Have you seen me yet?” In truth, people look so different with their clothes off that is is hard to say for sure. The installation is a parade of male and female bodies, most in good shape. All stand on a jetty facing the camera. It is about as erotic as a nudist colony, ie; not very.

But the punters here in Folkestone don’t seem to mind. The venue and the street outside are buzzing.  Visitors have to queue to scrutinise the scopes. Looking at people with no clothes on turns out to be the most fun you can have with your own proverbial clothes on. The high spirits might worry you just a little; after all art is supposed to be a serious endeavour, not a peep show.

Tunick, mind you, comes across as perfectly sincere. And as he has said, his work falls between land art, sculpture and performance art. The critical faculties may be stunned by mass nudity, but the format here in Folkestone calls to mind the unimpeachable Marcel Duchamp. His final artwork of course, a nude by the name of Étant donnés, also employed the keyhole approach to viewing.

Comparisons should probably end there. Duchamp’s faceless, depilated nude spreads her legs for the viewer and is quite the opposite of this surprisingly wholesome show in Folkestone. You would also have to visit Philadelphia to see Duchamp’s installation, whereas for the art lovers of Folkestone, these nudes have come to their doorstep. But in any history of the nude in art, you would surely have to mention both contrasting angles.




The Naked Roundup

November 5, 2010 · Print This Article

McGinley-Tom Golden Tunnel

Tom (Golden Tunnel)" 2010 by Ryan McGinley

Photos from Artissima, Turin’s contemporary art fair
“We make money not art” has uploaded a few of the many images they took at Artissima, Turin Italy’s contemporary art fair. If the photos shown are indicative of the rest of the show it looks to be something not to be missed. Read more here

This week in “Can’t Muster the Engergy to Not Even Care About This” is a toss up
Cant decide which is of less interest, work begins on Lady Gaga’s 8 wax figures at DC’s Madame Tussauds or Sophie Crumb (daughter of Robert Crumb) releases a book of drawings that make her father look like Albrecht Durer. Read more here & here

Someone is selling off their VIP Access to Art Basel Miami Beach
Someone has put their VIP packet up on Craigslist for a minimum of $500 which gets you access to all the major events hosted by Art Basel and the Satellite Fairs. It doesn’t get you into the Delano Hotel though unfortunately you still need an even rarer commodity to do that, an actuall young & sexy woman on your arm to get the pleasure of paying $16 for a mojito. Buy your way in here

The British Government denys export license in effort to keep a Turner Painting Sold in Auction to Getty Trust  in British Hands
The British government has announced Wednesday that the required export license for “Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino,” which Turner painted in 1839, will be held up through Feb. 2, and potentially until Aug. 1, to give potential buyers who want to keep the painting on British soil a chance to match the J. Paul Getty Trust’s bid. Read more here

Rochelle Slovin Director of Museum of the Moving Image To Step Down After Renovation
Read more here

Amedeo Modigliani Nude Painting fetched a record-setting price of nearly $70 million
A wise woman with striking red hair told me a few weeks back that the nude is coming back stronger then ever and she may just be right. Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu assis sur un divan (La Belle Romaine) [Nude Sitting on a Divan (The Beautiful Roman Woman)], a canvas from an important series of nudes, drew five telephone bidders into a heated competition at the fall sale of impressionist and modern art ultimately selling to an anonymous buyer for $68.9 Million US. Read more here & here

The New York Times covers Olivier Zahm & Purple magazine
Read more here & here NSFW

The LA Times Wrings it Hands over Art Walks
The LA Times asks do Art Walks help or hurt the local scene, they might as well ask does wine production effect gallery openings; its a zen question that keeps getting asked and its ultimately pointless. Just be glad people show up at all since the overlap between the two worlds is so small if it was a Venn diagram it would look like a pair of spectacles. Read more here

The Art Newspaper Asks Does Sex Sell at Frieze
Read more here




Two Danes, A Nude & A Hotdog Place

October 22, 2010 · Print This Article

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Guggenheim gets turned down on its plan to create the Hot Dog Stand Frank Lloyd Wright would have built
The Guggenheim Museum considered the hot dog vendors outside its NYC landmark designed by Wright to not be in keeping with the look and style of the venue and in that vein pitched an idea to the city to build their own. Reports say that they thought the benefits would be increased revenue and a elimination of the generic style brightly colored stands. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission turned down the plan unanimously though saying “It detracts from the landmark and causes it to compete with the main building,” Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the commission, said of the proposed kiosk. “All of our standard appropriateness tests are not met here.” Too bad since I would have loved to see what they would have done, someone needs to publish the spec drawings for that plan. Read more here

TED Prize this year goes to Street Photo-Grafitti Artist “JR the Photograffeur”
Part of me is just glad that the joke awarding of food pundit Jamie Oliver is past and Jr is actually interesting albeit I wish I knew more about his work prior to now. NPR’s blog “The Picture Show” does a good job of covering a broad array of his work so I won’t say more then check it out. Read more here

Stereotypical Art Show Award Goes To Sue Williams: ‘Al-Qaeda Is the CIA’
I read about her show in the New York Times (a article with not a single image?) and was both annoyed by the lack of photos but more so curious as to what this show looked like. After looking up the official 303 Gallery website I enjoyably went through every photo. Sadly not for ascetic reasons or conceptual ones but the show is a virtual cornucopia of the current trends, tropes & stereotypes of the gallery scene today all in one places. There is the mish-mash theme, publicly antagonizing titles,  the glory in “shitty drawing”, the mix of rich color highly elaborate wallpaper with monochromatic underplayed items, the go to masturbation references, war of the sexes & ironic elevation of the sensational and banal. I would have been able to win my Art World bingo game for the month but was just missing either deer illustration, skull illustration, taxidermy animal or human silhouette. Maybe next time. Read more here & See more here

NUDE in Chicago
Part of the Sculpture Objects & Functional Art (SOFA) exposition this year in Chicago (Nov 5th-7th) will be a exhibition of sculpture being built at booth 920 with help from the audience.  Chicago artist Dana Major Kanovitz will be building the sculpture out of paper that the audience will hand to her. This is part of the larger series on show at the Perimeter Gallery which is showing a group show of artist who are looking to take a new stab at the oldest of genres in art, The Nude. You can read the press release and see images here

Danes get upset over Lego Sex
Employees at the town hall of Roskilde near Copenhagen have taken offence at the work on show in the building, paintings of two men made of Lego figures having sex. According to Danish press reports, artist Svend Ahnstrøm’s piece, which shows ‘Kurt and Anders’ pleasuring themselves in a public park, has prompted three internal complaints. But no objections have been raised about Lego depictions of Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden. “It’s hard to believe that something like this can offend people in today’s Denmark,” said Ahnstrøm. Deep down I wonder if his real thought was “Three people? a lousy three people?
Seriously people are too lazy to protest….” cause look at the work and sing “One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn’t belong” the artist even agrees since he places Kurt and Anders at the bottom of his page last on his site. See more here

Mall in Manchester, England creates replica of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s Tomb & Treasure
Read more here

Dutch Venice Biennale 2010 – Dutch pavilion
The Dutch pavilion is very interesting this time round and “we make money not art” does a good job of covering it. Read more here




Photographer Bill Henson’s Work Seized

May 27, 2008 · Print This Article

Bill Henson
This is an ongoing story that I will barely scratch the surface of but Bill Henson an artist/photographer living in Australia has over the last few days/week been having his work of 25+ years seized, closed down and put into legal doubt.

His work is largely inky black desaturated figurative photos of individuals in minimal or distant urban environments wearing either loose clothing or nude. The catch is that there are also nude teen age models included. Read more




Mind the gap, not the breasts… London Underground museaum ad causes stir

February 14, 2008 · Print This Article

16th Century Nude Art Painting

A 16th century nude painting of the Roman goddess Venus has been banned from being part of the ad campaign for London’s Royal Academy of Arts upcoming exhibition on 16th century German painter and printmaker Lucas Cranach the Elder. Officials are banning it for fear it’s “exhibitionist” qualities could cause offense.

The promotional poster which was set to be displayed in the London Underground train system had transportation officials concerned since:

“Millions of people travel on the London Underground each day, and they have no choice but to view whatever adverts are posted there,”

“We have to take into account the full range of travellers [sic British] and endeavour [sic more British] not to cause offence [sic my god can’t the British spell in English….. yes I know it’s an off colour joke] in the adverts we display.”

According to the London Underground, the poster breached its guidelines against ads that depict Read more