Archive for April, 2015
Visitors to the National Gallery of Australia have been asked to take off all their clothes before they can view James Turrell: A Retrospective, an exhibition which celebrates Turrell’s work with light and colours. About 50 people at a time duly stripped to attend the show which ran after hours on April 1st and 2nd and was emphatically not, the Gallery insisted, an April Fool’s joke.
Viewing art naked as a way to remove the last material barrier between artist and audience was a favourite idea of Turrell’s, who first introduced it in Japan, where an unclad audience viewed one of his “Perceptual Cells”. When Turrell, now 70, suggested to the National Gallery in Melbourne that they give the notion a try, they asked well-known absurdist artist Stuart Ringholt, who is based in the city, to guide the unclothed tours.
Ringholt was enthusiastic. ‘Intellectually’, he says, ‘it’s an interesting idea, nudity. …Turrell’s work is minimal — he doesn’t work with materials like clay, paint and other traditional materials: he just works with light.’ He quotes Turrell, ‘Light is very difficult to shape. You end up shaping everything around it.’ Precisely why, says Ringholt, these immersive light installations are best experienced without clothes.
Indeed, looking at images of clothed people bathed in the colours of Turrell’s Ganzfield Room, their clothes seem banal, almost ridiculous. It is easy to imagine how subtle and enchanting would be the play of light on bare bodies.
Clothing, Ringholt told a reporter from Australia’s NewsCorp, is a kind of second skin, a barrier which itself carries colour and thus doubly overwhelms the direct relationship of light and body. ‘The nude viewer is reduced to just themselves, because there is no second skin… the body can [directly] feel the vibration to colour.’
Looking at pictures of the nude audience inside the exhibit, it is hard to dispute that they are beautiful and this beauty has little to do with body shape or size. Rather it is a sort of serenity that comes from having overcome embarrassment and fear of the body.
Only when you stop trying to be beautiful do you discover that you already are.
That’s what I take out of it, anyway, even though I am far too repressed to give it a try myself.
But look, in this gathering of people made innocent and vulnerable by having shed their protective layers it is only the fully-clothed gallery attendant who seems ill-at-ease.
Stuart Ringholt (born 1971, Perth) has had solo exhibitions at institutions such as Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne; the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; and Club Laundromat, New York. His major group exhibitions include Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2014); The Last Laugh, apexart, New York (2013); and dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel, Germany (2013). He is represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane.
Ringholt has led many nude art tours, partly because ‘It is against the law to be nude in public in Australia, and by being nude you are breaking the law: but because we closed the museum to a certain few, it becomes private space and also a space of protest.’
Having the courage to disrobe in public, he says, is also a stance against sexism and a culture of sexualisation: ‘We’re actually less sexualised with our clothes off — when you’re clothed, it engages the imagination: there is something very sexy about a beautiful ankle in a beautiful shoe, or clothing that frames the body beautifully. Whereas when it’s all out, people start focusing on the face — it’s no longer about the butt, the hairy bits and the nipples.’
However, as he explained to the Newscorp reporter, ‘There are always more younger women than younger men, because younger men are very fearful of getting shrinkage.’
Ringholt’s video Helen Lane (2009), filmed in a lane outside his North Melbourne studio, was featured for four years on Blip.tv before the site decided that it didn’t meet its terms of service. The excellent article on Ringholt at Frieze magazine, describes the video thus: “a thin man precariously grasps at the handle of a ‘Wacka-Packa’, (a powerful motorized device typically used for compacting earth on construction sites), that thuds across the lane releasing shards of cobblestone and sending the tree attached to its top into orgasmic quivers. The… video is, quite simply, absurd.”
James Turrell (born May 6, 1943) is an American artist primarily concerned with light and space. Turrell was a MacArthur Fellow in 1984. Turrell is best known for his work in progress, Roden Crater, a natural cinder cone crater located outside Flagstaff, Arizona that he is turning into a massive naked-eye observatory. (Source, with no trace of irony: Wikipedia)
SOTHEBY’S MAGNIFICENT JEWELS
21 April 2015 | 10am EDT | NEW YORK
Sotheby’s are calling it The Ultimate Emerald-Cut Diamond. Well, you’d expect them to speak highly of it. They’re hoping to part someone from $25 million for the pleasure of owning it. This is small change compared to the $300 million paid in February this year for Gauguin’s Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) , and perhaps this is because immensely rich people realise that gems are ultimately baubles with no instrinsic value and any fool with enough money can own one, whereas a good painting will keep you warm forever.
Anyway, the stone in question is a mysterious 100-carat emerald-cut, D colour, Internally Flawless diamond unlike any offered at auction before. It is thought to have been found in a De Beers mine in Angola (or another West African location, I wasn’t interested enough to have made a note of the place) and thence travelled to Amsterdam, where it was cut from its original rough weight of 200 carats to the 100.2 carats of masterly precision we see here. Who owns it? Who cut it? Nobody knows, except presumably Sotheby’s and they are not saying.
Sotheby’s New York saleroom will offer the diamond at its April 21 Magnificent Jewels sale. Only six diamonds of over 100 carats and comparable-quality have ever been sold at auction, and Sotheby’s estimate this one will fetch between $19 and $25 million.
The size and spectacle of this huge stone seem to have reduced Frank Everett, Sotheby’s vice president of sales for jewellery, to a kind of breathless babble.
Struggling for some way to describe the uniqueness and presence of the gem, he told the Observer. “It could be considered a kind of object of art. When you hold it in your hand it’s such a unique experience—–you can see the mastery of the cut and the entire geometry––the size is what makes it rare and beautiful.” This, geometry aside, confirms me in my belief that the best that can be said of a stone like this is that it is rather large and very shiny. (More about diamonds when I write up several years’ worth of notes on the Kohinoor.)