When some faux authority figure in an art gallery informs me, “Sir, you can’t take photographs in here”, I immediately focus my energy on how I can take more photographs in here. It’s 2016. We all have camera phones. I’m writing a post about this for Viva. Give it up (although considering selfie sticks in front of the “Mona Lisa” would anger me, I guess I’m a hypocrite, what of it).
On Wednesday, my friends Tara and Rhys accompanied me on an adult supervised journey to the NUDE exhibit at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. We were attending during Art After Hours, which is a weekly event that sees the Art Gallery stay open late on Wednesday evenings. The crowds are generally not too bad and they usually have live music in the lobby of the Art Gallery and drinks, which is not the worst way to start an evening of debauchery and nudity.
So what can you expect from NUDE? Well, let’s be honest – boobs and dicks and a few other body parts. But mostly arty boobs and dicks – mythological boobs and dicks, surreal boobs and dicks, disturbing boobs and dicks. Boobs forged from clay. Dicks shaped from metal. Acrylic dicks. Sketches of boobs and dicks.
Oil on canvas boobs.
Also, cheeks. Marble cheeks.
Not sold? Tough crowd. To be more specific, you’ll be feasting your eyes on works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Francis Bacon, Pierre Bonnard, as well as Auguste Rodin’s famous 1889 heavy marble sculpture, “the kiss” (pictured above). People were outraged when this work was exhibited in the early 1900s, and there was widespread fear in the UK that “local youths” would be “corrupted” by the eroticism on display.
They were right.
The moment I set eyes on this perverse, romantic display of bare affection, I was compelled to take a photograph and break the rules set down earlier by roaming gallery staff. I was instantly reprimanded by a brutish security guard, and despair engulfed me. Much like Icarus (who featured prominently in “The Historical Nude” section), I had flown too close to the sun and suffered the scorn of a suited man wearing an official Art Gallery lanyard.
I was indeed corrupted.
But I got over it. No one else seemed to notice or care. Art galleries are great like that. Everyone is so engaged and absorbed in extracting meaning and purpose from the pieces on the walls that you can shut yourself off from the rest of the world while you’re in there. It’s just you and the work of an artist, sometimes painted or sculpted over a hundred years ago – it existed in those moments in history and now it exists in front of you. It captures your attention, you try to understand it, you might succeed or fail (as I do), and you move on to the next, but it’s the moment a piece captures your attention that brings the most intrigue. You’re peering into a slice of the past tailored specifically by someone for a reason that’s not always apparent, but nevertheless there it is, immortalised in a physical form. Often it reminds you of something you’ve seen, or experienced, or thought about before, and you connect with it.
Boobs and dicks.
The last piece to really catch your eye as you finish the exhibit is Ron Mueck’s 2005 “Wild Man”, a giant, bearded, naked, seated man, eyes wide with horror and surprise at the realisation that he is on display with everything out for the world to see. It’s an astonishingly real sculpture, which makes it all the more terrifying, and I was not surprised to see large crowds gathered around in awe at this bizarre, hairy piece.
The evening wrapped up at my favourite pizza-by-the-slice hard rock underground pinball joint in Sydney, Frankies Pizza. With our arrival at 8:40pm, and a $15 all you can eat special on Wednesday expiring promptly at 9pm, I set out to make the most of the offer and downed 6 pieces in 20 minutes. The staff were of great assistance in helping me achieve this feat – legends.
It’s astonishing how even on a Wednesday night you can still have a good time in Sydney. Viva could be the app that breathes life into every week night – who says Thursday, Friday, Saturday are the only nights you can have out? Viva la school night!
NUDE @ The Art Gallery Of NSW is on until 5 February 2017. Adult tickets are about $24.00 (thanks to Tara for my free ticket!). You can find more details on Viva – take a spin and check it out!