Full, rounded hips, small breasts, creamy white skin and luxuriant hair. In the sixteenth century that was the archetype of the ideal woman. The female nude is a recurring but ever-changing theme in art history. How contemporary art approaches the subject can be seen in Nude, a new exhibition in the Vincent Award Room at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. This combines works from the Monique Zajfen Collection with the museum’s own pieces and, in contrast with the traditional, idealised artistic nude, presents explicit, surrealistic and sometimes even frightening depictions of the naked female form.
At first sight the drawings and works on paper in Nude come across as nothing short of pornographic. But what is really striking about them is that they are concerned not so much with the physical attractiveness of the women they portray as with their state of mind. Stories are suggested, whispered to us. These are vulnerable, pensive women, but the stories are also sinister and disturbing. The chromatic, stylistic and situational context in which these nudes are placed only adds to the unreal and desolate mood. With works of Lisa Yuskavage, Michael Kirkham, Martin Eder, Mike Kelley and George Condo.
The biennial Vincent Award is the leading prize for European contemporary art. First presented in 2000, it was established by the Broere Foundation in memory of Monique Zajfen, a dear friend of the Broere family and the former owner of Gallery 121 in Antwerp. The Vincent Award is linked to the Monique Zajfen Collection, which is built around works acquired from past winners together with other purchases of important contemporary art. The collection is on permanent loan to the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.