The naked human form has been a staple of Western art since before the Greek and Roman eras. From the Renaissance, in which Michelangelo’s “David” expressed the biblical and da Vinci codified human anatomy into perfect proportions, to Titian’s and Ruben’s depiction of the female nude in more sensual imagery, artists have imbued in the nude everything from society’s ideal of perfection, the divine, the erotic, the naturalistic and even the rebellious. The nude, which began in early Western art as the idealized, slowly transitioned into even frivolous settings by the 18th and 19th centuries, when live models were used in less idealized and more naturalistic settings across art academies in Italy, France and England. It was the advent of photography that helped artists depicting the nude to disengage the live model from lengthy painting sessions and continue to develop nudity as art and become more inclusive and separated from its original idealization in the academies. Today, while there’s no dearth of artists expressing through the nude across diverse media, the political and social context has mostly relegated the nude from the idealized to the shameful and embarrassing, with the subliminal impact of it being labeled “morally” wrong manifesting itself in the thriving pornography industry around the world.
In this milieu of unresolved cultural sentiments about nudity arose the iconic photographer Spencer Tunick, who two decades ago took the art world by storm by creating photographs that depicted multitudes of naked people in urban and natural settings around the world. Inspired by artists such as Carolee Schneemann and Yayoi Kusama, who documented the nude through photography and video, Tunick explored a new genre in which performance art, sociopolitical activism, design and photography came together to subvert the dominant paradigm in art of the nude with compositions of hundreds and thousands of naked subjects in a single composition, which become the landscape themselves.
In Tunick’s installations, the viewer is greeted by a sea of human bodies in variations of skin colors, body types and poses, all of them volunteers baring their all to become part of Tunick’s vision of collective self-expression and total acceptance of one’s natural body. Tunick has treated the nude at a scale like it had never been approached before. What began as a small series of works with naked bodies defining a landscape in the ’90s became one of the longest-standing political and social statements of freedom, rebellion and self-expression for thousands of people around the world. Tunick has been jailed repeatedly for his photographs, and has played hide and seek with urban police while rallying thousands of people to turn up naked for his installations.
Reminiscing about his early start, Tunick comments, “I photographed my first work on the streets of New York City on the Lower East Side with one person in 1990. It was outside of my apartment on 3rd St. and Ave C. Between 1990 and 1994, I worked on a series of nude individuals on the streets. In the summer of 1994, I had over 40 people that wanted to pose for me. I had been scouting the United Nations as a location. Instead of just photographing one person there, I decided to invite all 40. Twenty-eight people eventually showed up to pose for my United Nations work in the summer of 1994. If I put out the word today to do that same work at the United Nations, I could get 4,000 people to show up. It takes a long time to gain the trust of the public, to have them trust you with their nakedness, their vulnerability and turning that into strength. I believe the nude en masse has evolved with me. Without the willingness of the public to participate, I would not be able to make my art. I am very fortunate and thankful.”
The versatility of Tunick’s vision keeps him circling the globe; however, more recently he has focused more on creating his work in natural settings than in his earlier urban works. “Since 2008, I have been working with nude groups in nature more often than the city,” he notes, “from the North Shore of Maui, Hawaii, to the top of Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. I’ve organized group works on the playa of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada and the arid desert of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I have also brought props and adornment into my group works by having participants pose with fabric, pillows, and even paint their bodies colors.”
When asked about what aspects of his work are “digital,” Tunick responds, “I still shoot film, but I do print digitally by Duggal drum-scanning my negative and printing from a digital file. Duggal has a very special HD printer that outputs my prints at 610 dpi, most labs output at 200 or 300. As far as shooting digitally, I will switch over when a camera company gets smart and makes a medium-format digital rangefinder. The artists and photographers that I know are all waiting for an affordable medium-format digital rangefinder that can be handheld in low light that is 50 megapixels or higher.”
Recently, Tunick became a Featured Artist on YourArtGallery.com, a unique global community of artists and art buyers to share, buy and sell fine-art photography. The portal allows all artists to sell their work directly. “I made a special edition for this,” says Tunick. “It’s a good opportunity to share my work with a wider audience overseas. I have many new and young collectors that want to acquire my work overseas, and YourArtGallery.com streamlines the fulfillment process of getting the artwork to the client. It’s very efficient.”
YourArtGallery.com has partnered with Duggal Visual Solutions as its print and finishing provider. To view the images Tunick specially selected for this exclusive collection, please visit www.yourartgallery.com.
Tunick is one of my favorite artists, and I enjoy seeing large prints of his works in progress on our magnetic walls, where several strips of tests are done to get the colors and resolution perfectly right. I’m delighted to hear what he has to say about working with us. “Duggal has been like my second home for over 15 years now,” says Tunick. “Everyone at Duggal, from the printers to the mounting team, works very closely with me to ensure that each piece is shipped out to the galleries or the collectors in pristine condition. Getting the color tones across the varying bodies in my photographs is of utmost importance. The team at Duggal understands my work very well and gives me the kind of attention I need to feel secure that my work is being produced in the best quality for the collectors I have around the world.”
Tunick’s highly prized, archival limited-edition fine-art pieces have been acquired by collectors around the world, who include Stéphane Janssen of Belgium, Spook Stream from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Julianne Moore, Chuck Close and recently Nicole Ehrlich, Lady Gaga’s producer.