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Malerie Marder, “Plate #19” (2008-2013)
Malerie Marder, “Plate #19” (2008-2013)Fotografiska New York

This exhibition celebrates the naked body, freed from the male gaze

Nude, an upcoming show at Fotografiska New York, features diverse nudes photographed by 30 female artists

Turns out that since Guerrilla Girls asked “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” in 1989, not a lot has changed. Female nudes still make up a staggering portion of gallery collections across the world, while actual female-identifying artists remain notoriously underrepresented, with a 2018 analysis of major US museums by the NMWA finding their collections to be 87 per cent male, as well as 85 per cent white. 

However, an upcoming exhibition at Fotografiska New York aims to subvert the art world’s disproportionately male gaze when it comes to lensing bare bodies. Titled NUDE, the photography show centres a female perspective, shedding light on our historical fascination with the naked body through a collection of diverse portraits.

“Unlike painting, photography is not a medium that has been ‘owned’ by men for centuries,” says Johan Vikner, director of global exhibitions at Fotografiska, in a press statement. “In art, we have mostly been presented with the same kind of nude through our modern western history. A consideration most often decided and depicted by men, for an audience of men.” 

This exhibition, on the other hand, offers an example of the “new nude”, as seen through the lens of 30 contemporary female artists, spanning 20 nationalities. The perspective is limited to female-identifying photographers in direct response to the overwhelmingly male slant of art history, with the aim of tilting the gender balance in the right direction. 

In front of the camera, though, it’s a different story. The subjects who feature in NUDE are not limited by their gender identity, including people who identify as nonbinary, male, and female. Works by photographers such as Bettina Pittaluga or Momo Akabe also celebrate trans bodies in particular, with models displaying the traces of surgical transitions.

Elsewhere, NUDE showcases the self-shot photographs of former Dazed 100er Arvida Byström (AKA the model and artist who faced violent online abuse for showing her unshaved legs), alongside striking depictions of the Black male body by Dana Scruggs, and voyeuristic scenes from Malerie Marder. Reflecting the diverse range of artists behind the camera, aesthetic references range from the “bubblegum beauty standards” of commercial campaigns, to the dark and the disorientating.

Vikner adds: “This collection of contemporary female artists using the nude body as their language, be it their own or others, for the sake of art, beauty, representation, self-expression, as a subject and object, is an example of what this new nude is and what it looks like.”

NUDE opens at Fotografiska New York on February 11, and will be on view until May 1.