UK's Royal Academy finally gets its nude awakening
With gender parity in nudes the institution seeks to redress the imbalance of women's place in the art world
Britain’s Royal Academy is to ensure its next exhibition of nudes has an equal gender split as it navigates the post-Me Too era.
The academy, which has just had a restructuring to celebrate its 250th anniversary, will have almost exact parity between male and female nudes in an exhibition of Renaissance art next year. The decision, confirmed by academy artistic director Tim Marlow at its new season launch on Monday, marks the first time it has introduced a gender quota for any of its exhibitions.
The Renaissance Nude, due to open in March, will include about 85 works created between 1400 and 1530. It is designed to track the development of the “idea and ideal” of the nude throughout Europe.
The announcement of its gender balance follows a period of deep crisis in the arts. Television, film, theatre, music and the visual arts have all been re-examining their treatment of women in the wake of the MeToo revelations of sex abuse. Dr Per Rumberg, curator of the Royal Academy, said the curators had been “very keen in the beginning to have an equal balance of men and women”.While he had not done a precise headcount, “there is almost parity between men and women”.
The academy had also worked to strike a gender balance in the mixture of scholars working on the exhibition.
The idea for the show was conceived three years ago, and it will be put on in partnership with the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Marlow said he had found it interesting to see how the exhibition had changed in meaning amid the “cultural climate” of 2018. “On one level you can say, art historically, are there more women than men? Yes, but in that period is it considerably more? Historically what are the differences in the way the male and female bodies are portrayed?”Marlow said that other academy exhibitions, such as the forthcoming Oceania or Bill Viola shows, would not be subject to gender quotas. “But in a subject exploring the Renaissance nude in a historic period, it seems a very interesting exercise to do.”
The Renaissance Nude will include masterpieces from Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dürer and Cranach, moving from religious art to the secular.
Naked ambitionsGalleries have long been in the sights of feminist campaigners, with critics noting that there is a drastic shortage of female artists in major collections and a high proportion of nude women on the walls. So prevalent was the issue that Tate Modern now holds the 1989 portfolio by the Guerrilla Girls collective entitled Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met Museum? Referring to the New York museum, it says less than 5% of the work in its modern art section is by women, while 85% of the nudes on exhibit are female.
Earlier this year, the National Gallery confirmed that less than 1% of the works in its collections are by women.
– © The Daily Telegraph