One sure thing that can be said about Tracy Emin, famed English artist known for her shock art is that she’s unpretentious, which is more than can be said for Italian artist Dianora Niccolini.
More than 100 Emin works are showing at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York through June 22. You may remember her work showing nearly 15 years ago in that icky Brooklyn Museum show with elephant doo-doo stuck on a painting of the Virgin Mary. Emin’s offering was a pink neon sculpture called “Very Happy Girl,” which described the size of her boyfriend’s penis.
Also around that time came Emin’s “My Bed” at the Tate Gallery in London, made with her unmade bed sheets stained with bodily secretions.
While it was no bed of roses to look at, Emin got a lot of praise for it. “My Bed” was even picked to represent England at the Venice Biennale. She also was made a Royal Academician and received an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art, and a Doctor of Letters from the University of Kent and a Doctor of Philosophy from London Metropolitan University.
And get this. Queen Elizabeth II appointed Emin a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the visual arts.
But while “My Bed” was certainly memorable, Emin’s “Very Happy Girl” wins the unforgettable award to this writer and not for a good reason.
Like fragmented antique torsos, “Very Happy Girl” could have been just a study if not for the title. It’s as though Emin was out to shock for its own sake – art for art’s sake be damned.
Of course, Emin isn’t the only shock artist out there. usedview.com/article/when-nudes-art-are-gratutitous There are the nudes by photographer Dianora Niccolini, last seen at the Tampa Museum of Art a couple of years ago and looking mindless for being so endlessly postured.
Niccolini claims that having been born in Florence, where Michelangelo’s undraped “David” stands, he held sway over her. But it’s hard to see it in her work.
Michelangelo’s figure of the Biblical hero represents more than his nude form. The figure speaks of courage by virtue of its nudity, which makes the boy’s vulnerability extra apparent. How odd that Niccolini, who lived with this evocative work in her home town, never got the point of it.
Niccolini goes so far as to call herself a “trend setter,” boasting, “I have specialized on the male nude for over a quarter of a century.”
Taking pride in picturing naked men is hardly the stuff of a 21st century art. It’s not even the stuff of Michelangelo’s day in the 15th century. Instead of taking her cues from the art of the Renaissance, when artists portrayed people as distinct, one from the other, Niccolini unwittingly takes credit for bucking the mindset of the Middle Ages, when nudity was frowned on and artists were allowed to show nakedness only in their pictures of The Last Judgment and the torments of hell — the moral being that nakedness is a punishable thing.
Had Niccolini lived during the Middle Ages, her focus on male nudity would certainly have made her a “trend setter. “As it is, she’s fully 10 centuries behind her times.
That goes double for Emin who, at age 50 now, is behind the times in another way: she doesn’t seem to have gotten past adolescence.
No matter. Come December of this year, she gets her first solo museum show in the U.S. at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami.