You can’t handle the Naked Truth - Posters of nudes defaced outside Cork art gallery

It might be catalogued as ‘Anonymous (2018)’ because curators at one of the country’s leading galleries are unaware of either the identity - or the motive - of whoever is behind the ‘cover-up’ of a male nude in two promotional banners. 

You can’t handle the Naked Truth - Posters of nudes defaced outside Cork art gallery

Whether it is vandalism, graffiti, censorship, or just art, the unknown marker carrier applied their hand sometime over the weekend to the banners on the railings outside Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery, showing reproductions of Kilkenny-based artist Elizabeth Cope’s 2006 painting, Giraffe Man.

The banners are advertising one of the exhibitions running inside, ‘Naked Truth: The Nude in Irish Art,’ which has been attracting up to 1,000 visitors a day since opening two weeks ago.

While the response to the show to date has been hugely positive, exhibition co-curator Dawn Williams said staff can only guess what might have been behind the weekend art attack.

The neat manner in which the subject’s genitals have been obscured — not once, but twice — suggests offence may have motivated the endeavours, but nothing is being ruled out.

“It could be humour, it could be just mischief, or it could be someone who may find male genitalia offensive,” said Ms Williams.

“The whole idea of the exhibition was to assert the existence of a complex of nudes in Irish art, and it’s already provoking personal conversations and public discussion around the body, the nude and the naked.”

The Crawford Art Gallery team decided not to bring in conservation experts to restore the banners to their original status.

Victor Ó Murchú from the House Cafe at nearby Cork Opera House thought it was good to think people are engaging with the art.

“Not that any of us would be encouraging defacement, but it is a very polite defacement of manhood,” he said.

Ironically, a number of the 80 works in the exhibition have already experienced censorship.

Robert Ballagh’s painting Study for a Kite, in which the subject exposes himself, was withdrawn from exhibition on orders of the 1977 Kilkenny Arts Week chairman, a Church of Ireland cleric who deemed it inappropriate.

More recently, Dragana Jurisic had her Instagram account temporarily closed earlier this summer after sharing an image (already ‘self-censored’ with a leaf) from her 100 Muses project, in which she photographed 100 women nude after they responded to her open call for volunteers.

Both works were bought by the Arts Council, the purchase of the latter being announced just a week ago.

On the day before the exhibition opened at the Crawford Art Gallery, Ms Williams shared an article about it from an art and culture website to her own Facebook page.

The associated image from one of Jurisic’s 100 Muses photos was promptly deemed to have breached the social network’s community standards — just days before a Channel 4 investigation raised serious questions about how racist, violent, and other inappropriate material goes unpoliced on Facebook.

The exhibition, ‘Naked Truth: The Nude in Irish Art’ runs until October 28 at Crawford Gallery.

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