Equal Opportunities for Nudes and Battle of the Statues

The Royal Academy in London attempts to balance the scales for male and female nudes, India races to build the worlds tallest statue and Art Basel tries to make things easier for its smaller galleries. All this and more in the weeks news!

Header: Art Basel 2018 © Art Basel and Creative Time. Above: Duncan Grant's Studio, credit Tony Tree.
Header: Art Basel 2018 © Art Basel and Creative Time. Above: Duncan Grant’s Studio, credit Tony Tree

What We Learned This Week

There has been a spate of women-only exhibitions recently, attempting to redress the balance of male to female artists gaining visibility. But what of the subjects? The Royal Academy has announced it wants equality amongst all its subjects too, with news of an equal split of male and female naked bodies in its next exhibition of nudes from the Renaissance era. Of course, if we’re talking total equality, why stop with such a binary distinction of genders?  

A fire has devastated the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. As the last of the flames were still being put out on Monday morning, citizens gathered to mourn the burnt-out building, and also protest the neglect of the museum, and institutions like it. Cristiana Serejo, the museum’s deputy director, asserted that around 90 per cent of the museum’s collection was destroyed in the fire. There are strong hopes that the museum’s centrepiece, a twelve-thousand-year-old skeleton named Luzia—the oldest found in the Americas—survived, although it has not yet been found. 

Over in India, two statues, each over twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty are battling out to become the largest in the world. The nationalistic effigies—one, looming 182 feet over Gujarat state, will depict Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first deputy prime minister and a hero of the Indian struggle for independence; the other will show Chhatrapati Shivaji, a seventeenth-century king, and is set to stand at 212 metres tall, off the coast of Mumbai by 2021. 

Performance artist Deborah de Robertis has caused uproar for posing naked at the grotto of the Our Lady of Lourdes sanctuary in France. On Saturday, the thirty-four-year-old artist from Luxembourg, who has previously performed at museums such a the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre, stood in the grotto, nude except for a blue veil, in her performance titled The Origin of Life. The piece is part of a series that attempts to incarnate famous art-historical female models and liberate them from their positions under the male gaze. She is now being charged with “sexual exhibitionism” and awaits her trial in Tarbes next May.

Across the border in Switzerland, Art Basel makes a step in the right direction for smaller galleries struggling to obtain spots in art fairs. Beginning with its next edition in June 2019, the fair will introduce what it calls a slide-scale pricing model, meaning that smaller galleries will be required to pay less for their space than larger galleries. Although the fair acknowledges in a statement that this cannot solve all the systemic issues faced by smaller galleries, they say “Art Basel sees this as a solid step in addressing the current situation”.

Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Famous Women Dinner Service, 1932. Courtesy PIANO NOBILE, Robert Travers (Works of Art) Ltd.
Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Famous Women Dinner Service, 1932. Courtesy Piano Nobile, Robert Travers (Works of Art) Ltd

Finally, if you’re eager to make like the Bloomsbury Group and get out of the city of London for the weekend, you can do so even as the nights draw in, as Charleston, the Sussex country home where the likes of Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf and Duncan Grant met, painted, wrote, and discussed is receiving a £7.9m expansion, designed to keep the building that previously closed every winter open to guests all year round.


Exhibition of the Week

Relics at Ceysson and Bénètière, Installation View, 2018
Relics at Ceysson and Bénètière, Installation View, 2018

This week’s exhibition is a group show at Ceysson and Bénètière in Paris which takes as its starting point the idea that, in the US, curator Ellie Rines says, “everything seems old, and of course way more than in Europe. A fifty-year-old object immediately becomes an antiquity.” Relics brings together the pristine compositions of Sam Moyer with the “aged” bronze sculptures of Tony Matelli and the installations of Nikita Gale in an exploration of what the future of archaeology might look like.


Quote of the Week

The Sky As an Image, an Image As a Net, Serpentine Galleries Park Nights, 27 July 2018. Photo by Lewis Ronald
Victoria Sin, The Sky as an Image, an Image as a Net, Serpentine Galleries Park Nights, 27 July 2018. Photo by Lewis Ronald

“I feel that my success in the last year can be attributed in some sense to the way my work is fetishized at the moment”

—Holly Black meets Victoria Sin for Elephant


Instagram Account of the Week

Honey Long (@honeylong)

One half of artist duo Long and Stent (with artist Prue Stent, who also has a great Instagram!), Honey Long’s account is about as visceral and fleshy as it can get. She posts performance videos of bodies writhing in pastel-hued membranes and landscapes, as well as surreal inspirations and anthropomorphic glass sculpture works.