Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The naked truth about Tunick

Thousands of naked people crouch in Mexico City's main Zocalo plaza
during the massive naked photo session
The naked truth about Tunick
Spencer Tunick's mass nude photo shoots are nothing more than a wacky publicity stunt
Jonathan Jones
Monday 7 May 2007 15.20 BST

Art lovers? ... thousands pose for Tunick's latest photo shoot in Mexico. Photograph: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP
Criticise a popular artist like Spencer Tunick and you're inevitably accused of snobbery, but I'll come clean - I really don't believe anyone can mistake his sensationalism for art.
Tunick has just persuaded 18,000 people to strip off in Mexico City, for the latest in a series of mass nude photo shoots around the world. Well, good for him. He's got the publicity, and the participants doubtless enjoyed themselves, maybe even found it therapeutic.
But so what? Tunick's work isn't art, and no one who actually considered it for a moment would say it was. There's no interesting "thought" underlying his work nor is it a provocative challenge to what art is. His photograph-stunts are on the same level as a wacky advertising campaign. I find it contemptible the way Tunick is applauded for something so blatantly cynical.
I think many people secretly hate art. Not so long ago, it was perfectly respectable to express that loathing, at least for modern art, but nowadays art takes such a prominent role in our culture that most people feel obliged to pay lip service to it - yet the old loathing survives under the surface.
Why hate art? Because art is strange and alien. A urinal in a museum is peculiar but so is a marble sculpture of a nude Biblical hero. Duchamp's Fountain and Michelangelo's David remain odd, even when you think hard about them. There's never a moment when they become as accessible to us as, say, a good film or a gripping novel. Yet powerful institutions insist these are great works of art. The hatred of art wants to say: get lost, go away, this is just bizarre.
Ours is, after all, a world in which a couple of weeks ago, a column in the Guardian claimed the best exhibition in London is the V&A's Kylie show because it truly delivers the populism that "high art" (the example given was Gilbert & George) can only fake.
It seems to me that Tunick's fans are motivated - perhaps unconsciously - by a great revulsion at all the pretension and arrogance of high culture. Liking Spencer Tunick is a covert way of saying you hate art.

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