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WATCH: Museum invites visitors to view Robert Mapplethorpe’s erotic artwork fully naked (NSFW)

‘It felt cruisey, but I also felt shy. It was weird combination,’ said one participant

Museum invites visitors to view Robert Mapplethorpe’s erotic artwork fully naked
(Montreal Museum of Fine Art/Sebastien Roy/CBC) – Participants at the event organised by Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has taken a bold step in embracing the naked human form.

Last week, the museum invited around 100 visitors to view its current exhibition of the artwork of iconic queer photographer Robert Mapplethorpe completely naked.

The special evening tour was conducted after regular museum hours with the unclothed participants going through the ‘Focus: Perfection — Robert Mapplethorpe’ exhibition with the company of a curator.

‘When you look at his photos, you can see the diversity of bodies that he captured,’ said Thomas Bastien, the museum’s Director of Education and Cultural Action. ‘We wanted to find a way to reflect that diversity for visitors to the exhibit.’

Montreal Museum of Fine Art/Sebastien Roy/CBC
Montreal Museum of Fine Art/Sebastien Roy/CBC

The idea is a collaboration between the museum and Fugues, Montreal’s monthly LGBT magazine.

Fugues editor Yves Lafontaine shared: ‘We learned that two other museums, in Sydney and Vienna, had done naked-visit events in the past [which] were very successful. With the Mapplethorpe exhibit, it seemed the perfect match for us.’

The event’s organisers had hoped that the visitors would be able to better appreciate the nude portraits by being fully nude themselves.

Though, the organisers weren’t exactly sure how the event would be received at first.

‘We had no idea the proposition would appeal to such a large number of people,’ said Lafontaine. ‘After the ad ran in our September issue, we thought maybe 35 people would sign up, but we had hundreds of inquiries, so we had to rethink the event to include more people.’

The majority of the event’s attendees were men, with only three women.

Montreal Museum of Fine Art
Montreal Museum of Fine Art/Sebastien Roy/CBC

One of the participants, Braden Scott, a doctoral student in art history at McGill, shared his experience: ‘I think initially people were a bit shy, but there was a cocktail first, so anyone with issues could get over it,’ he said.

He also explained his hesitation to join the tour at first: ‘My initial response when I saw the ad was, “This is a night for perverts.” But then I thought about it and realised what a great idea it is, given Mapplethorpe’s art,’ he said.

Scott also described that the night did feel more erotic.

‘Everyone had their clothes off and we’re looking at many photos of naked people, as well as photos depicting BDSM. It felt cruisey, but I also felt shy. It was a weird combination.’

He added that he’s ‘very impressed by the museum carrying out such an event.

‘I might have expected an event like this to be organised by a smaller gallery. I’m very impressed that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts did this,’ he said. ‘It shows that they are aware of what he was doing and who he was speaking to. Doing an event like this integrates the work with the spectator. I’m quite blown away that the Museum did this — it speaks to their respect for him as an artist.’

Take a look at what happened that night here:

 

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