ART REVIEW by Tessa Ditner SELLING SEX 22nd March- 1st June 2012, London

By on March 28, 2012

Selling Sex is an art exhibition of all female artists, featuring fetishistic wearable art and their various interpretations of the female nude. Among the pieces is a gloriously beautiful latex dress by Atsuko Kudo entitled ‘Armour for Prostitutes’ which you can purchase for a £15,000 (gulp!), stilettos made from ‘lacquered wood, horn, antique roman 24k gold beads, pit-fired porcelain and horse hair’ amongst other boggling materials by Aoi Kotsuhiroi at £3,200 as well as Souless Shoes from the Sado-Chic series by Betony Vernon that would have a foot fetishist scratching his head with wonder.

 

Photo by Roni Moc‡n

Showstudio say the exhibition was curated with the aim of casting light on the fact that 8% of the work exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art is created by women, the Tate’s female holdings amounts to 15% and the Louvre today still has no female artists in their collection of over 35,000 artworks. “There remain only three industries in which women earn more money than men- pornography, prostitution and modelling. What does that tell us? The war is hardly won.”

Lascive, from the Lamp Girls series , Marianne Maric

There is certainly some thinky art by Cortney Andrews’ photography of a bruised body Arms Bend at £1,550, Ione Rucquoi’s photograph Second Skin (£3,950) that reminded me of the book Perfume, Una Burke’simpressive skin like armour sculpture/clothing made of un-dyed cow hide and Marianne Maric’s toy-clad body photographs (£550 each). These artists seem to be looking at the female body deconstructed as an object, either through the pose of the model or the focus on the body’s outer layers. Then there is an unforgettable photograph by Malerie Marder of a prostitute on her bed, with a childlike body and a porcelain face. Curator Carrie Scott explains that Marder went to Amsterdam and befriended the prostitutes who posed for her.

Armour for Prostitutes, Atsuko Kudo, 2012

“Her work is all about trust,” Scott says “she photographed these women in a vulnerable, naked state.” The name of the prostitute isn’t revealed so the piece is entitled Untitled from Anatomy and there was no monetary exchange between subject and photographer. However, with the photograph costing £5,500, there seems to me to be a bit of a can of worms there, in terms of the ethics surrounding the taking of such a photograph. Niamh White, Associate Director of SHOWstudio, admits that for her, this image was the most difficult of the show. She says that despite the title of the art show being ‘Selling Sex’ this “by no means acts to eroticise prostitution.” While Marder’s work is about “the access it gives us to the sitter and the challenges that that presents,” she sees Kudo’s Armour for Prostitutes to be about empowerment and as she puts it “nothing short of a feat of engineering” in terms of latex craftsmanship.

Downstairs is a short film entitled Fashion Fetish directed by Ruth Hogben. It feels like a step further from the Agent Provocateur shorts, but being focussed on fetish fashion rather than fetishism meant that it remains pouty, eye-liner posey rather than cerebral or controversial. There are nice uses of textures such as a wooden banister and flowers against skin or silk and a rocking shot of a woman in a chair felt like this could be the first draft of a much bigger, more visually ambitious art film.

Wet Silence, Aoi Kotsuhiroi, 2012

Two of the most exciting pieces are Ana Rajcevic’s brass faux-lips (£690), which remind me of those big fat red plastic lips I used to pop on as a kid and then pretend I was Jessica Rabbit in and also three pieces of video art by Jessica Lagunas that translates to: The Better to Caress You With, The Better To Kiss You With, The Better to See You With. A lady art goer beside me says ‘deeply satisfying’ as I stare at the films, particularly of the nail polish being put on so much that it drips off the nails like paint. I ask the stranger what she means by ‘deeply satisfying’ to which she replied “You just feel like doing that, when you get ready to go out, you put your polish or lipstick on, and really you might go that far…” Her name is Alison Hargreaves, and we grin at each other because I know exactly what she means: a feeling that only women (or cross-dressers) can understand.

There is an ode to old fashioned Playboy-esque imagery by Suzannah Sinclair ranging from £600 to £3,750, female mechanics photographed by Liz Cohen (£5,700 each) and Inge Jacobsen who blends porn and sewing. Also surrealist upholstery by Charlotte Kingsnorth (£4,500 and £8,000) and surreal sculptures by Sarah Lucas (£8,000 each), watercolours by Kim McCarty (between £4,000 and £12,500), perfume in a silk box called Pink-Ness No 6 by Lisa Z. Morgan (£1,000) and collage by Vahge (£315 each). There is also -break the piggy bank- sex toys by Shiri Zinn. Gentle eroticism softens the show with Danielle Lurie’s Natural Nudes, Marianne Maric’s photographs La Femme au Corbeau and Lascive (pictured), Stefanie Schneider’s Lollipop pieces and porcelain with piped details and gold lustre by Rebecca Wilson. Finally, in the tug between wearability and art comes Alidra Alic’s breathtaking silver sculptures of flowers perched precariously on a ring. Beautiful, but probably not ideal to wear to do the washing up.

SELLING SEX 22nd March- 1st June 2012
SHOWstudio – 1-9 Bruton Place, London W1J 6LT tel: +44 (0)20 7399 4299
Website – showstudio.com/shop

3 Comments

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December 20, 2012 @ 02:21

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Rachel

April 23, 2012 @ 21:45

Went today! Definitely worth a look. I can’t stop thinking about the rose quartz and silver dildo. Luxury.

Martyn

March 28, 2012 @ 13:43

Great review Tessa! I’ll definitintely be going to see this next time I am in London. And the lipsticky moment reminded me of Amanda Lepore in the short film that David LaChapelle made starring her.

I never knew that about the Louvre . In contrast the gallery across the Tuilieries, Jeu de Paume seem to delight in exhibiting female artists – currently showing Berenice Abbot, before that was Diane Arbus and before that was Claude Cahun. This is a great gallery, everything I have seen there has been tremendous.

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