The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

“So These Two Naked Women Walk Into A Gallery Window, Right…”

Posted by Clem Bastow on August 1, 2008

A Brisbane art gallery’s promotional exercise – naked women taking baths in the front window of the gallery – has been given the Australian Family Association treatment today by the News stable:

In the stunt, two apparently naked women take a bath together and separately from 5pm to 7pm in the gallery’s window, in candle-lit scenes reminiscent of those made famous by Mena Suvari in the movie American Beauty.

No complaints have been received by police or Brisbane City Council, but the stunt has been criticised by the Queensland branch of the Australian Family Association.

President Mark Holzworth described it as “childish, immature, teenage schoolboy voyeur stuff” that added no credibility to the gallery or the artists featured.

“This will not attract art-lovers, it will attract voyeurs which is not good for Brisbane or women in general,” Mr Holzworth said.

“I thought we had grown up as a society. Not even brothels would be this brazen to promote their services.”

I thought Hell would freeze over before the day I agreed with the AFA, but I’m inclined to think Holzworth is right (on one point, at least – and certainly not his linking of the women in the gallery stunt to prostitutes for hire/delectation in the Amsterdam shop windows!): this is not about art, it’s about the publicity that comes along with being able to gawp at women in various states of undress while they are trapped behind a shop-window and, thus, completely objectified. It’s just another way of turning women’s bodies into a product for public consumption, trussed up with the old “Shush, it’s art” lie as the cherry on top.

The exhibition may well feature female nudes, which is fine – and drawing attention to this story is by no means done to in some way suggest that women should never be depicted naked ever again – but this tenuous tie-in doesn’t make the promotion any less whiffy. As fellow feminist blogger Audrey said when she tipped us off to the link, why is it only ever women’s bodies that are considered beautiful (and, thus, arty) in instances like this?

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