If a nude gets alive she becomes naked

A few days ago a woman walked up to the most famous vagina by Gustave Courbet shown at D’Orsay Museum in Paris, sat down on the floor, spread her legs and presented a live version of the painting to happy public and panicking gallery keepers.

This gesture was applauded by feminists who saw it as a clever statement against… No, I neither know nor want to find out. If all dumb attempts at getting noticed were branded “art”, we’d celebrate the Darwin list of stupid deaths instead of taking it for its nominal value of benchmarking absolute idiocy.

Given that there are many more statues and pics of men with their genitals exposed than female nudes, I expect a wave of male exhibitionism, with statements ranging from the rather academic, “on the transcendence of genital obsession clouding critical judgement” to a commonplace truth like “mine is bigger”.

I can come up with a dozen of very clever messages for anyone willing to get naked in front of an audience, but whichever message is taken by the exhibitor, the net effect is always the same: someone is getting naked in public, and the police is called to the scene.  Policemen wrap the naked performer in a blanket, and – having secured the offender safely in his/her cell, remind each other to wash their hands with the brand of soap that kills 99% of germs.

The lady in question was taken to the local police station, and, I guess, was released soon afterwards, because what can be worse for police morale than a raging feminist crowd outside the station chanting their demands to free one of their own?

This transformation of Rodin’s Thinker is a good illustration of the creative process behind the act:



PS IMPORTANT: If your point of view is different from mine, I’d love to hear your arguments!

To sample this blog, click on About at the top. It has links to some of my best or typical posts. There’s an Art & Fun shelf if you feel like in need of a laugh.


  1. You could also see it as a statement that applies to both men and woman. Like the title says ‘If a nude gets alive she becomes naked’. The difference between nude and naked has been in our culture for a long time. There is a certain amount of shame put on our bodies today, while the painting is seen as classy, the reality is seen as vulgar. This performance brings nude and naked closer together. I personally think this is a good. Cause after all aren’t naked and nude the same thing? And while it might be shocking, it does get the crowds attention and makes people think.

    1. First of all, thank you for your comment!

      You are perfectly entitled to like this performance – I don’t want to infringe upon your right to be moved by it. And thank you for spelliing out your arguments.This is exactly what I asked, and you did just that – and I am, truly, very grateful.

      Yet, these arguments do not make me change my mind, and let me explain why.

      You might be quite right about the artist’s intention. I, on the other hand, do not see how this intention has any value. The genre of a nude portrait (which, I have to say, is only 50 percent applicable in this case, and the bottom 50% at that) is defined as a bodily portait of someone who is aware of being looked on. The genre of a naked portrait is about portaying someone unaware of the observer’s attention. Degas was trying to make this distinction clear in his paintings and pastels, so erroneously termed “nude” today, even though a great share of them are, in fact, naked.

      The joke of Courbet was NOT showing the upper part of the body leaving the viewer to wonder if the person on the painting is or isn’t aware of the observer’s attention. Even though the painting was concieved as “private”, the idea, or joke, if you want, is there.

      Courbet painting the vagina shut tight, implying that the observer may watch it, but he can’t penetrate it: it is not welcoming even the owner of the painting. It is both naked and impregnable, as good as hidden in multi-layered clothes.

      Courbet’s artistic idea was clever, and a valuable addition to the debate of public morality or, rather, immorality of treating a woman’s vagina as a desired, but somehow dirty object, with it being responsible for the origin of any participant of the debate.

      Is it immoral to awe over something that is the origin of everything? Or the immorality is in the hypocricy of men who love vaginas in private but despise them in public? The vagina in the painting was shut down tight in a very unwelcome manner because it is a stimulus of reflection about nudity and morality, not an object to be desired.

      What the “artist” who exposed her vagina did, was ruining Courbet’s idea of stimulating the debate on immorality by juxtaposing it against a banal cunt. It’s like asking once again, if the Earth is a sphere floating through space. Yes, it is, thank you very much, we’ve known this for a few hundred years already, you don’t need to provoke us by mounting a model of flat Earth over the gates to Oxford University’s Physics faculty.

      The questions you raise, like “the painting is seen as classy, [but] the reality is seen as vulgar” have already been asked and answered, and parodied, and spoofed a million times.

      What this lady artist did was asking the same question again, not providing any additional insight to answers that have already been given, and doing it in a way that was a thousand times less clever than the original work of Courbet.

      This act, being a desperate attempt at self-publicity, is an insult to women’s intellect, not a prompt to think.

      1. First and foremost, thanks for sharing Degas intentions and means with me. I didn’t knew them, so I’m very thankful for that! And wow, you are totally right, and your response made me think more than this performance did! 🙂 Which is important because I’m still very young and still got a lot to learn. (including english since I’m obviously not a native speaker 🙂 ) Now I see this performance in a whole other light!
        I do think the intentions of this work are good,not good in the sense of ‚’wow how clever of you’, but rather in a way.. well I don’t know how to explain this in proper english.. that the artist is trying to do good to this world? That doesn’t mean I think it’s good art tough. And yes, you are right it has already been said and done many times before, and this performance might not be remembered for more than a few months. But people aren’t making art and aren’t protesting about the roundness of or earth anymore you see. Of course Degas intentions and art were undoubtedly better. But the topic must have a great meaning to some, otherwise they wouldn’t be repeating it over and over again. I think they wan’t to change perspectives more then they wan’t to make art. I guess they want to make an end to body shaming, which would obviously be positive. Maybe they are in need of an actual artist who for once will actually put things in another perspective, like degas did in the past. 🙂

        1. Well said Kore. The artist already had the painting tensioned between two forces or opposing worlds as art moscow points out – so there was no need for the gash flash which she may have thought provided a second world or irony to a painting that already had them. In that sense her performance did drag the painting down to the banal – a pov I did not see until artmoscows comments.

  2. ps – Her cunt matches the content of the painting, note also that her gold dress matches the frame of the painting. She seems to have put considerable thought into it.I think she is a star. I think the real art here is the priceless comedy of the true nature of the keepers who have likely been congratulating themselves all day about their impressive courage to feature pussy in their ‘liberated’ art gallery. lmfao.

  3. I think Pornography can become art, as I aim to demonstrate in my current project – but what makes it art is that raw pornography has its own machination, its own aesthetic, purpose, meaning – to make it art requires providing some new spin on that aesthetic or meaning, to show pornography outside of its zone, as something more or less than it is, to use it in a way that it was not intended – whether in a banal fashion such as a wall to wall collage that overwhelms one with the oppression of genitalia or as a spectacle that surprises such as pornography with all the clothes on, or abstracted into something potent and engaging like Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party – pornography is its own art, like all forms it has its own is-ness, which some find alluring, beautiful, an appreciation of the human body in its intimate splendour and glory engaged in pleasurable acts or turned toward the darkness via rape, power, control, vulnerability, etc involving the physical battle between bodies ravaged by certain mind. Porn is undoubtedly for me an artform – it has many degrees, tasteful, awful but the values do not take away its is-ness as a display. To accept it as art requires only that it be packaged in some way that aesthetically pleases (or displeases) the critic – and that is all it has ever been.

  4. This piece may also be of interest as regards patriarchal domination over supplying roles for women to fit in most spheres, including the occult. Also, Artmoscow, I LOVE your site man. It’s one of those rare banquets that feeds me exactly what I want to eat. You have already taught me a lot about ways to look at and appreciate art that weren’t part of my toolbox and inspired me.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the site – thank you! Nothing makes me more happy than people saying their life got richer because they’ve got new tools in their art appreciation toolbox ) It will take some time for me to digest and reply to your comments, as I am on a busy schedule right now, but I can’t thank you enough for your valuable insights and build-ups to this post.

      While my knowledge of feminist ideology is very limited, if not close to zero, I think I’ve seen the sentiment of “patriachal domination” before, and I find it both true and a bit ridiculous. It is true men try to hold tight to their roles, including their right to define what’s iappropriate to women and what’s not. There have been very few examples of any group relinquishing superiority rights in human history, but as technology progresses, the process of rights’ redistribution becomes less bloody. Today, modern technology blurs the line between physical differences of men and women, so men find it more and more difficult to impose their views on the opposite sex. It is a natural consequence of progress, and it could not happen in the 17th century, for instance, when women simply could not wage wars with heavy muskets or halberds. So, women’s fight for the right to set their own sights on whatever they may fancy is a bit ridiculous because the biggest contribution into that fight is made by technological advancement. It’s a bit like praying for the sun to come up, sometimes when it has already rolled up in the sky, at that.

      This vaginal performance, in my view, is that kind of prayer, set against a painting that was done as a private erotic pic for a Turk, who’d doubtless spent many happy hours satisfying himself in front of it. The debate of whether to exhibit it or not was largely revolving around its artistic value (which is doubtful), not its supposed indecency. To cut it short, I think this “protest” is a fake, because it adds nothing to the debate ) Again, I might have missed some important contribution made by a live opened-up vagina against the closed lips of a painted one.

      1. I’m pleased to have offered something – and look forward to your reply. May I ask how it is you know so much about the esoteric nature of art?
        Returning to the subject at hand – I think you would have to ask the woman herself what she was thinking / aiming to do. Maybe she just had the jack of seeing women treated as sex objects, maybe she had a clever irony in mind, maybe she boosted an otherwise ordinary painting to cult status with her manoeuevre. Is it wrong to say it takes balls to do what she did? 😉

  5. What is art depends on prevailing attitudes – since we live in an age where shock has become normal and anticipated it loses a lot of its thunder – taboos are falling, with perhaps only a handful now raising more than an eyebrow – so a naked woman may cause a stir because of the juxtaposition of her act within that arena at that particular time with that particular artpiece – but it’s effect is short-lived, tomorrow she will be replaced by a new spectacle. In regards to one view of feminism and the eternal feminine: http://thetempleofthem.com/misogyniste-moreau-dali-and-the-eternal-feminine/

  6. You know… I think all this feminist stuff about being equal to men, discrimination and etc. it’s all girl-business. It’s always about a bunch of women fighting another bunch of women about the right to and is it appropriate not to wear bra to the office. The ones with ugly tits are just jealous. Because there is no men who’d be against watching a free women exhibition session. ) And no, it’s not art of course.

    1. None of the groups of women you describe were actually feminists. Some of them were simply using the established brand to pursue their very anti-feminist ends, I am afraid. When feminism is about equal rights and especially equal rights to be equally free and happy, it’s a great cause. When feminism is used as a disguise for poor performance, or a jealousy tool it can become something very ugly.

      1. Agree 100%. Please excuse me for my rather sarcastic comment above. Maybe you have some examples? When it has caused a great work of art to appear?

            1. It is a tricky issue. Feminist art is very young, and it is too early to say if anything produced by artists claiming to be feminists will stand the test of time. I, personally, believe Pussy Riot’s performance that put them to prison was a great piece of performance art. The question is, was it feminist? Ms Tolokonnikova, at a press conference after she got out of prison sported immaculate nails, haircut, lipstick, and mascara in what was an obvious attempt to look as sex-appealing as possible. That shook my views a bit )

              The idea that women should have equal rights, at the same time, led to the appearance of Holzer’s early works (“Protect me from what I want”) which I believe has been an unsurpassed anti-consumerist artistic statement (given that the culture of consumerism is very anti-feminist).

              Gentilleschi was great, and even though there’s a gap of 400 years between her and feminism, she couldn’t become the best painter in her generation without the belief she’s equal to men.

              Take Gertrude Stein, who was an inspiration to a generation of artists, even though she was not a great artist herself…

              Even Tracy Emin, with all my dislike of most of her work, did made a very strong point with the tent to which she pinned names of men she’d slept with. That was – at the time when it was done – a great statement that women can be and shall be equally free to be happy with whomever they want to be and in whichever way they want, with “modesty” being a false concept promoted by men to safeguard their right to be the hunter (assuming women are always hunted for and after). And I think it will stand the test of time )

    1. It is without the suffrage movement that women wouldn’t be able to vote. Today, “third-wave feminism” hijacked perfectly justified equality causes. This is, of course, my view, not an objective truth of any sort. I’ve had a chance to meet modern feminists. And I was disappointed. They were not interesting. They were boring. THey made everyone around them uncomfortable, except their fellow third-wave feminists. Ultimately, they isolated themselves from other points of view, other people, other ideas. Sad.

      Perhaps, I’ve met some boring sort of intolerant feminists and there are others, open and cleverly tolerant out there.

      As for the sex/seduction issue, please stand by for some time, until I get my classification theory of nude vs.naked in art roperly published.

      Thank you for your comment – and for your reference to sex\seduction vs.porno in art – this is something I have to write about )

      1. I haven’t met any modern feminists, so I cannot make a judgment there. 🙂 I, personally, think that we need to move away from separating ourselves and begin to reclassify our ‘movements’ as human rights issues. Sadly, we need a movement in human thought. I also think that the difference between nude and naked in anything has to do more with context, ya know? Does nudity make you think in some way or does it open your mind to see the world in a different way. To me, that’s the difference between nudity in art and porn. Pornography is only meant to satisfy a baser instinct. Nothing more. Oh, and I will check out the link. Thanks.

  7. Yes, they do these things to be equal to men. They marched once exposing their breasts because it is okey for men to do so. They are so caught up in this movement because they feel like they are less. I’m a girl who is against feminism because equality between men and women is injustice to women. Art is not spreading your legs for sure, porn is not Art.

    1. I don’t think art with a capital A exists, though I support your view that porn is not art. A recent neuro research study showed that the brain shrinks as porn addiction develops. Art can’t be about shrinking the brain of its addict ))

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you liked the post )

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