Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Body beautiful?

Maybe you heard about that museum in Vienna that let you in free to see their exhibit of early 1900's erotic art if you showed up (as the Times puts it in today's Arts section) "nude or scantily clad." My attitude: whatever. But they need to get their story straight. The Times quotes the museum's Elisabeth Leopold as explaining: "We find a naked body every bit as beautiful as a clothed one." Fair enough, depending perhaps on which body we're talking about (Henry Kissinger: keep your clothes on). But the museum isn't showing Raphael or even Bernini; they're showing Klimt and that twisted perv (and I mean that in a good way) Egon Schiele (one of my faves). This is presumably why director Peter Weinhaupt says that he hoped to (again in the Times's words) "create a mini-scandal reminiscent of the one that first surrounded the paintings." Again: whatever. But if "mini-scandal" is the point, the idea that nudity is no big deal makes no sense. And of course if you know Schiele at all, you know: it ain't the nudity. What is interesting about Schiele, and what makes him great, is that the self-portraits are just as twisted, and, seemingly, in the same way, as the erotic ones. And that's the scandal.

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