July 3 – October 7, 2018
I had the distinctively awkward pleasure of attending the exhibition Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection which presents some fifty works from The Met’s Scofield Thayer Collection at the Met Breuer this summer (2018) here in New York City, along with a healthy crowd of erotic art lovers. I have always been a huge fan of all three of these artists, and an exhibit of erotic Nudes by all three would seem a pleasurable, if not somewhat guilty experience.
I have seen these works before, I know them well. Intimately in fact. Like many artists, these were some of the first art books I collected in my 20’s after a trip to Europe, where these artists are more well known. My wife at the time loved them too. They were scandalous and inspirational. Looking through these art books in the privacy of my own space is not awkward. Looking at these images in a room filled with like-minded strangers is another matter. So I jumped at the chance to try THAT.
Obviously there is the voyeuristic angle here, we are ALL peeping Toms inside an artist’s studio in the 19th century, looking at all of these rosy, sexual organs. Shhhhhh. God only knows what else these men have asked these literally poor women to do for them. But here we are, crowded way too close together, looking over each other’s shoulders at this large collection of personal pornography. What are we hoping to glean exactly? Insight into the artistic mind?
I am here at this esteemed museum for the “money shot” as they say, because without the photos I snapped, you would NOT be reading this sentence. And so, as I was squaring up my phone to capture these images, I could sense the awkward tension in the people next to me as I prepared to take each shot. Even though I was capturing images of naughty things captured by other artists, I was the one apparently breaking some kind of taboo. The museum’s signage was a good indication of the predicament we face when sharing morally questionable content created by artists we esteem.
Check this show out with someone you can talk about sex and gender to, because this really forces one to think about how art has changed, and what artists are allowed to paint today.