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Videochat: send nudes. Olya Avstreyh and Jenya Milyukos
From Videochat: send nudes by Olya Avstreyh and Jenya Milyukos (2020)Courtesy of the artists

Send/make nudes: How artists are reframing the tradition of the nude

From the reinventing of classic Greek sculpture to grotesque augmented reality, artists are subverting our expectations of the naked body in art

“The English language, with its elaborate generosity, distinguishes between the naked and the nude,” wrote art critic Kenneth Clark in his seminal work, The Nude: A Study of Ideal Art. “The vague image it (the nude) projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenceless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body: the body re-formed.” 

This notion of the ‘nude’ as an ideal of beauty, as opposed to the ‘naked’ body (our unclothed human self in all its unguarded realness), has persisted in depictions of the human form through the ages. When we think of the nude in western art we’re likely to imagine the idealised classical figures of gods and heroes in ancient Greece, or Titian’s sensual depictions of female bodies in 16th century Italy. 

Later, artists have continually been drawn to reinterpreting the classical nude in various ways. Inspired by African masks and Iberian sculpture, Picasso’s monumental painting “Demoiselles d'Avignon” (1907) features a group of prostitutes rendered with angular, stylised bodies. Egon Schiele’s nudes are infused with a febrile desire absent from the classical depictions of nudity. While many of Lucian Freud’s unflinching studies of his bare subjects would probably epitomise what Kenneth Clark might regard, in polarising definition, as the abject naked form. 

On this theme, we’ve collected some of the best art and photography working to explode and expand traditional artistic depictions of the human body. Below, take a look at some of the artworks dismantling and re-framing the concept and meaning of the nude.


Amid a background of the pandemic and a puritanical climate of state-enforced censorship in Russia, two students began a daily ritual of video calling and painting nude portraits of each other while they talked. Olya Avstreyh and Jenya Milyukos met at art school in Moscow and, when quarantine began, they wanted to carry on making art in a way that felt collaborative. Although they didn’t know one another well when the project began, Videochat: Send Nudes (2020) evolved from these sessions of spending time together, remotely. “We wanted to reclaim the intimacy of video calls,” Avstreyh told Dazed last year. “We wanted to paint, and we wanted to perform an experiment to learn how far can you push the boundaries of mutual trust with somebody you don’t really know. It was a deliberate challenge.” 

This daily practice may have been cathartic on a personal level, but it also had a deeply political dimension. At the time, their fellow Russian artist Yulia Tsvetkova was facing six years in prison for posting her feminist, nude artwork on social media. “A big media strike swept through the Russian internet with mottos “free Yulia” and “female body is not pornography”,” Avstreyh explained. “I think I never fully grasped the way female nudity is taboo in our society. With my own work, I think I elevated the concept of the nude body, my body, Jenya’s body, it all became just a beautiful art form for me… This is a big, big conversation about double standards and the puritanism of it all because, you know, male bodies don’t get censored on Instagram, we checked!”


“The approach to classical sculpture has always been to reduce the scale and form of women,” Cajsa von Zeipel told Dazed in 2017. “Don’t believe what they say -– this classical approach is still very much in practice.”

The Swedish-born visual artist’s series of colossal sculptures, Insulting the Archive, talks back to the diminutive female figure of the classical nude. Instead of posing demurely, her larger-than-life women are depicted “smoking, fucking, and pulling-hair”. Described by Zeipel at the time as “her most personal exhibition to date”, the work is drawn from her own circle of friends. “The characters I am working with here are my best friends,” she told Dazed. “They haven’t been invented, they are real women. It’s me and it’s my girlfriends.”


After working with various mediums – including sexually provocative graffiti – Hudinilson Jr.’s experiments with new technology in the late 1970s led him to pioneer the art of the explicit photocopier selfie. 

Inspired by the tragic Greek myth of Narcissus – the young man who became transfixed with his own beauty – the Brazillian artist began using the Xerox machine as a means of reproducing images of himself, presenting his own body as a work of art and creating compositions of his photocopied flesh.


“My thirsty purpose is to highlight the hidden sensitivity of the human body, and especially of the male one, whose tears are generated by the patriarchy,” photographer Helias Doulis told Dazed in 2016. His photo series, Parabyss: A Nurtured Nature depicts his naked make subjects, alone and together, with their faces shielded from view but their naked bodies prone and vulnerable on the rocky shore. 

Shot at Limanakia, a gay nudist beach 30 outside of Athens, Doulis creates what he hopes will be experienced as a space of unconditional acceptance. The imagined utopia pictured in Parabyss is not only a haven for its subjects, but Doulis also intends it to be cathartic to those experiencing it through the medium of his stunning photographs. He explained, “I want the viewer, through my models to seek for his or her own haven.”


In an age of augmented reality when we’re more disconnected from what Marina Abramović has referred to as the “human now” than ever before, this collection of work takes us back to a more visceral, tangible experience of the human body. These artworks reconsider what it means to inhabit a body in all the odd, beautiful, and grotesque ways we experience our physical selves. 

In many mediums and styles, 14 artists from accross the world – including Dazed 100 alumni George Rouy, Danish photographer Asger Carlsen (who began his career working as a photographer on crime scenes), Brazillian-born sculptor Vanessa Da Silva, and Spanish artist Cristina BanBan – all respond to the idea of the human form in their distinct ways.