artists & participants
Handsome focuses on the image of man and the way it has been represented in contemporary art recently; this exhibition contrasts man’s image to several investigations of women’s image in the visual arts. The curators have both written books focusing on the question of gender: Barbara Polla wrote about men’s beauty in a book titled « Les hommes, ce qui les rend beaux » (Ed. Favre 2005) and Gianni Romano wrote « Contemporanee » (Postmedia books 2002), evaluating women’s art from Cindy Sherman to today. Given their pre-existing interest in the image of men and women in the visual arts, both curators were thrilled by the idea of organizing an exhibition exclusively focused on the image of man, investigating how man is portrayed in contemporary art, without limiting it to self-portrait.
The exhibition starts with a historical room, where the curators assembled artists or artworks dedicated to the image of man in his external appearance (Greenfield Sanders, Van Assche), in different acts of disguise (Lüthi, Makos, Rondinone), in the iconographical aspect (Gilbert & George representing their own famous image and being represented by Tatiana Arce) and in relation to the image of man in the history of art (Matt Saunders after Udo Kier and Mat Collishaw after Caravaggio).
In the other rooms, we find artworks realised by young artists experimenting with the image of man according to the following strategies: nudity (Nathalie Rebholz, Stefano Arienti), man perceived in terms of relationships (Jeanine Woollard, Margherita Morgantin, Tatiana Arce, Gianni Motti, Annika Larsson and Lyle Ashton Harris), and mythical or psychological figures (Ingar Krauss, Andrea Mastrovito, Charles Moody).
Art’s relation to the human figure is somewhat ambiguous, especially in the case of nudes. While during Antiquity man as a subject is as prominent as female subjects, this trend changes during the Middle Age, when it becomes extremely rare to see a naked man in artworks. A key example remains the famous « Déjeuner sur l’hérbe », where two men lay next to a naked woman. This reversal has been the subject of several analyses, some feminist, some not, and is likely also due to a certain homophobia that from the 18th century onwards favors female nudity as a standard, while denying the nudity of man. This remained the case until the 1960’s, when the emergence of new juvenile and feminist politics tested those standards.
From Duchamp onward, art changed, traditional forms became less important, and we have come to consider everything that develops interaction and discourse in terms of beauty. If we think of the social dynamics that influence the art today. we realise that one of the main interests of contemporary artists is to represent man according to his ability to develop relations with the others.