Friday, April 9, 2010

Welcome to Nude York

The notice at the entrance to the show at the Museum of Modern Art warned of nudity "and other images which may be disturbing to some." Visitor discretion was advised.

Inside the gallery, a crowd had formed in front of a nude couple in a corner. An old man, supporting himself on a cane, gamely stepped up to the man and the woman, who stood immobile, just inches apart, like caryatids flanking the doorway to another room. Brushing up against their naked skin would be unavoidable. The choice: face the man or the woman, as he squeezed through. (He chose to face the woman.)

A couple of rooms farther along, an undressed man lay on a bench with a skeleton draped across his chest and, just before the exit, a nude woman had been mounted to the wall, perched on a kind of bicycle seat, her arms spread wide in a tableau that resembled a crucifixion.

Whether this is indeed a cultural moment or just the effects of spring, New York has looked (and felt) like the naked city in recent weeks. And while the days of Rudy Giuliani's decency commission are long gone and a less censorious mayor has taken his place, the works have people talking.

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