contemporary art, event, exhibition, Paris, performance art

Olympia is Looking at You, or “Who’s Afraid of Deborah De Robertis?”

1 Olympia

Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863 & Auguste Clésinger, Femme piquée par un serpent [Woman Bitten by a Snake], 1847

Olympia dares to look at us. This is the real scandal: she is looking at us. This unworthy woman, showcased only to be glared at, sister to the nude featured on an Orsay Museum poster inviting the public to come and look at nudes with their children (26 years after the famous Guerrilla Girls poster which was taking to task the Met Museum), is looking at us. So passive, her desirable flesh ready for the taking, she should not have any agency, she should not be soliciting… And yet she dares to look at us in the eye, she dares to face us, brazenly, immodestly, defiantly. One day, maybe, we will have her, as they say, thanks to our charm –or rather our money. But we won’t own her: possessing her will be more akin to submitting to her. Continue reading

exhibition, painting, Paris

Hooray for Hookers! (at Orsay)

1 Inscription sur le livre d'or

[Long live the whores / Hooray for hookers] Note on the exhibition’s guestbook

Before one visits Splendour and Misery. Pictures of Prostitution, 1850-1910 at the Musée d’Orsay (until January 17, 2016), one wonders a bit anxiously if this exhibition will be as empty as Masculin Masculin, as superficial as L’Ange du Bizarre, or on the contrary as stimulating as the one on Sade, which moved me deeply. It was not as overwhelming as the latter, but it was definitely instructive: this exhibition is pedagogically very interesting, as it describes very well the political, social, moral, economic context in which prostitution fostered in the nineteenth century, as it exposes its mechanisms, as it characterizes its protagonists and its spaces. The exhibition presents prostitution as a coded, regulated universe, with its laws, its consumer guides, its idiosyncrasies, such as the ambiguous gestures designed to show the goods and to lure in the client. This is what Édouard Manet illustrated in 1880, drawing only boots, a bit of uncovered shin and a red dress, three clues that make the lady’s trade abundantly clear to the audience.

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