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New Paris Exhibition Lifts The Veil On The Male Nude

posted 1 Oct 2013, 06:17 by Mpelembe   [ updated 1 Oct 2013, 06:18 ]

A new exhibition at Paris's illustrious Musee d'Orsay looks at the history the male nude from 1800 to the modern day.

PARISFRANCE (SEPTEMBER 30, 2013) (REUTERS) -  A new exhibition at Paris's historic Musee d'Orsay shines a spotlight on the world of the male nude, from classical heroes to modern-day pop stars.

The male form still has the ability to raise eyebrows, organisers say, and so the theme of the exhibition is an innovative and challenging one.

An exhibition on a similar topic at Vienna's Leopold Museum last year sparked controversy when posters featuring three footballers wearing nothing but their boots were erected all over the city. Stung by the outcry, the museum ultimately decided to cover up the most explicit areas of the poster.

The offending work by French duo Pierre et Gilles -- entitled "Vive la France" -- is now featured at the Musee d'Orsay, one of 12 to have formed part of the Austrian exhibition.

Museum director Guy Cogeval is at pains to point out that Masculine/Masculine is a different experience entirely, although he admits he was spurred on by the Leopold Museum's work.

"Although personally I wasn't inspired by the exhibition in Vienna, it's certainly the exhibition which gave me the courage to tackle this topic. Because I've wanted to look at the male nude for years, because museums are full of them, but in general most men and women look away and they're embarrassed by the male nude," he said.

A former railway station situated on the banks of the Seine, the Musee d'Orsay is home to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces by artists including Monet, Degas and Renoir.

The show draws on the museum's vast nineteenth century collection including works by Cezanne and several hitherto unknown sculptures. The overall effect is not entirely scandalous, Cogeval said.

"I even think that people who are looking for something shocking, who are looking for a transgressive exhibition might be a bit disappointed," he said.

The exhibition looks at the male nude in art from 1800 to the present day but rejects a chronological approach in favour of themed sequences on topics such as "the classical ideal" and "the heroic nude". The aim is to draw comparison between works across the centuries.

Paintings by Gustave Moreau and Jacques-Louis David rub shoulders with works by David Hockney and a topless portrait of rapper Eminem by American artist David LaChapelle.

Cogeval says public enthusiasm for the exhibition, which opened on September 24, has been overwhelming with the majority of visitors seeing a study of the male nude as long overdue.

Masculine/Masculine comes at the end of 12 eventful months for the French gay rights movement which saw a law legalising gay marriage pass after months of high-profile and occasionally violent street protests.

The climate, Cogeval said, made him resolute in his desire to see the exhibition come to life.

"The incomprehensible demonstrations in Paris, of unprecedented of violence, which staggered the whole planet, made me even more determined to put on this exhibition. It's not about being provocative but it's important that a great museum, serious and respectable as ours is, shows that it does not step back. I'm not scared of tackling such a subject."