Archive for April, 2015

Before reading further remove your clothes and turn out the lights

Before reading further remove your clothes and turn out the lights

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 explains

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.’

naked viewing

Ringholt’s video Helen Lane (2009), filmed in a lane outside his North Melbourne studio, was featured for four years on 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)

Sources: Art Daily, ArtNet,, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane,  Frieze magazine,,  Wikipedia

World’s rarest diamond goes on sale at Sotheby’s

World’s rarest diamond goes on sale at Sotheby’s

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.)