The Naked Truth

Art exhibits our fascinations and preoccupations- what we think about, are intrigued by, and want to look at.  Ever since the earliest cave paintings, the human body has been a constant subject in art.  We might all have one, but that doesn’t stop us from being interested in everyone else’s.  But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean there aren’t rules.  Society decided (or was it Adam and Eve?) that it just wasn’t on to go around showing off everything that God gave us.  And so the fig leaves were slapped on the sculptures, Venus’ flowing locks doubled as a convenient pair of knickers and photographers learnt the art of strategic angles.

David Shrigley's exhibit at the 2013 Turner prize show in Derry.  (http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/22/turner-prize-2013-exhibition)
David Shrigley’s exhibit at the 2013 Turner prize show in Derry. (http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/22/turner-prize-2013-exhibition)

In his work for the 2013 Turner prize, David Shrigley is poking fun at all of that.  His larger-than-life sculpture of a naked man with huge ears and a big nose, which routinely pees into a well-placed bucket, is offered up for a public life drawing session.  Normally the domain of art students, Shrigley tells us all to be artists and his humorous, ridiculous model stops anyone from taking the subject seriously.

David Shrigley, ‘Life Model 2012’ (installation), in his exhibit at the 2013 Turner Prize show in Londonderry. © David Shrigley. 
Tate Photography: Lucy Dawkins (http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/ra-magazine/blog/turner-prize-2013-exhibition,464,BAR.html)
David Shrigley, ‘Life Model 2012’ (installation), in his exhibit at the 2013 Turner Prize show in Londonderry.
© David Shrigley. Tate Photography: Lucy Dawkins (http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/ra-magazine/blog/turner-prize-2013-exhibition,464,BAR.html)

That hasn’t stopped teachers carefully steering schoolchildren away from this exhibit, though.  The exhibition might not have a repeat of the scandal caused by Manet’s Olympia on its hands, but it’s sure to provoke controversy.  You can check out the Turner Prize show in Londonderry until  5 January 2014.  To find out more about nudes in art, the scandalous and the admired, have a look at our book by Jp. A. Calosse.  Or if you’d rather just check out some nice bums, try In Praise of the Backside by Hans-Jürgen Döpp, instead.

G.A.

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