Nudity: Going Naked for Art? or Just Chimp Marketing?

Nudity has been the bedfellow of art since the ancient Greeks. The Greeks had naked bodies everywhere in their art not to mention what the Romans did with theirs. It’s not the sight of a naked human body that I find rather disturbing. Rather it’s the degree to which the idea of getting naked as performance art at major art venues is becoming the norm.

We recently covered an article about the artist Milo Moiré. Her strange desire to get naked in Basel, Switzerland during an art festival did not go unnoticed by either the authorities, who could do nothing legally, or the sponsors of the event.   I realize that one naked performance artist tramping her way through crowds of art sightseers is hardly a pandemic of nefarious nudity.

However, according to Artnet news, in May, the performance artist Deborah de Robertis decided to produce her own version of Gustave Courbet‘s L’Origine du monde (Origin of the World) and exposed her genitalia for the room to see.   The authorities at the Musée d’Orsay saw very little humor in the unscheduled event and had her performance cut short with a police escort.

At this point you might believe that this is a European problem. Alas, no. According to NPR, Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi is currently facing a potential 2 year prison sentence in Japan for creating a kayak modeled after her genitals. This is a strict no-no in Japan. She has already run into trouble with the Japanese police for just trying to raise the money for the Kayak and once again for sending pictures of it online.

Again, the issue is not the nudity. It’s the notion behind the nudity. None of these artists are arguably creating anything more worthwhile that scandalous publicity. It’s one thing to dutifully perform these acts as a symbol of protest or support for some political or ideological ideal, it’s quite another to just get naked and/or proudly display your genitals for a bit of publicity.

For the record, each artist claims they did these acts of exposure for artistic reasons. That’s fine in a sense. However, the more skeptical minded would see this as a mere attention-getting stunt. I mean, what are you protesting by exposing your genitals to a room full of people in front of a painting made in 1866?

Would it be wrong to see this as a simple yet rather effective marketing ploy that hopefully results in higher art sales? That of course brings us to a secondary question. Will it work? That these stunts might actually lead to a rise of personal sales by each of these artists is troubling.

I find this kind of marketing desperate and rather inartistic. If one wants to openly display oneself as some primal oriented object to garner personal attention, then how is that art?

Feeling by Andrew Chianese

Our primate cousins do this on a daily basis. Have we reduced  the arts to the level of chimpanzee marketing?  How then does this display make for art of a higher purpose? If it doesn’t, why do it?

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