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100% Nude in the Daniel Libeskind Space

5 January 2013

I have posed nude for artists, of course, and have participated nude in art installations before a live audience, yet never before had I gone naked as a visitor at an exhibition. Indeed, only once before had I heard of such an event taking place, at the excellent Leopold Museum in Vienna for ‘The Naked Truth’ (2005). But the chance came on a mild January evening in London’s Holloway Road, courtesy of Guerilla Galleries.

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When their ‘100% Nude‘ exhibition appeared at the Daniel Libeskind Space on 3/4 January 2013, one hundred tickets were issued for a “clothing optional” private view from 6-8pm on the first evening. With ticket in hand, I joined the queue (largely male, it has to be said) shortly after the doors had opened.

Guests were greeted at the entrance by Guerilla Galleries’ Tony André. Amiable and fully clothed, he was by far the most stylish person present on the night. Inside, a gentleman wearing nothing but a pink and black bow-tie – thus himself not entirely without style – showed me to a secure side-room where others were already in the process of undressing.

Although the event was clothing-optional, the overwhelming majority of patrons opted to strip completely. I personally entered the galleries with nothing about me except the glasses on my face, and soon had a glass in my hand as complementary wine was provided. Familiar faces were everywhere. It was especially nice to see Rodger and Esther, with whom I modelled at Spirited Bodies events last year. I wondered whether I would recognise any of the models in the artworks… but no, not this time.

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(photo: Guerilla Galleries on Twitter, 20 December 2012)

The art itself was an interesting mix of styles. Among the most memorable were the paintings of Pílar Camíno Alcón (Piluca), who depicted solo nude figures against a white background, each holding an object of their desire. In Pílar’s own self-portrait – beside which she briefly posed nude, possibly the only artist to take the option – she adopts a defiant warrior-like stance, clutching her beloved brushes and palette like arrows and a shield, with the whole canvas slashed with streaks of blood-red paint.

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(photo: Piluca on Facebook, 5 January 2013)

The small plasticine figurines of Eliza Freespirit brought an immediate smile to the face of all who saw them. Contrast with the performance work of Selma Dahhouki, which at first glance seemed nothing more than a pile of bricks. On closer inspection, however, the bricks were… they were breathing. Beneath them lay a naked female figure, silent and still, save for the gentle rise and fall of her shallow breaths. As she would be laying there for two hours my first thought was admiration for her durability. Then I wondered how many other piles of rubble I might have walked past without noticing what was trapped underneath. Maybe this was part of the work’s purpose.

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(photo: Eliza Freespirit via Piluca on Facebook, 2 January 2013)

The works that I found most impressive were paintings by Gareth Morgan. Each depicts a nude figure against a solid-colour background; each figure is formed entirely of tessellated triangles; each triangle is a single uniform flesh tone. It was surprising to see such lithe graceful forms created from straight lines and geometrical shapes.

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(photo: Gareth Morgan on Facebook, 4 January 2013)

So the art was positive, the company excellent, and the wine appreciated. Negatives? Well, temperatures fell away as the night wore on, so several us were fidgeting and shuffling to keep warm. Also, a lack of clarity on the protocol for camera use was a bit disconcerting. On the one hand it was unclear at first who was an official photographer and who was sneaking snaps for their own titillation (inevitably there were a few such creeps); on the other hand there was no knowing what would become of the official photographs. To their credit, the organisers took note of all these concerns.

Personally I found the event highly enjoyable and one that provided a fresh perspective on the relationship between art and the naked body. As a clothed visitor to galleries my attention is initially drawn to the art, then loaned in part to those around me, and finally becomes conscious of me, myself relative to the whole. Stepping naked into a gallery filled with clothed and unclothed people, however, my attention is first vainly pre-occupied with my own self  – I am on show in a gallery! – then drawn to those around me – who are the others in this show? what’s the feeling? – and finally to the art. It doesn’t diminish the art; it alters the psychological context of its appreciation. But big words shouldn’t mask the fact that most of all this was simply fun.

The ‘100% Nude‘ exhibition now moves on to Guerilla Galleries, 35 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, E2 8AA from 9 January to 24 January 2013 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 5:30pm). I wish the artists and galleries every success and hope they are inspired to try similar ventures in future. Whether it would work without a nude-themed exhibition, or whether over-use of the idea would render it passé or a magnet for exhibitionists and voyeurs, only time can tell. But it was great to be a part of it this time around.

Featured artists included Hock Tee Tan, Pouka, Eliza Freespirit, Keeley Wynn, Anna K Halsall, Julian Segura-Pacheo, Selma Dahhouki, Debra Taylor, Charlotte Ratcliffe, iCon, Dan Kitchener, The KRAH, Caroline Truss, Orinthia Tyrell, Gareth Morgan, Pilar Camino Alcon, Lucas Thompson, Nicola Anthony, Laurie Felipe, David Agenjo and Jessica Suarez.

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From → Art

One Comment
  1. boykog permalink

    Well done Steve, a surgical disection of an event I’ve never been honoured to participate into. And the impression is closer to what one would have had, had they’ve been present.
    So well written and presented. I wish I had the ability to express myself in similar fashion.
    One day, I hope, I would be able to take part in one such an event, and who knows…a divine inspiration may craft my wording in the way you did it.

    all the best,
    keep the good work,

    Boyko

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