“Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now,” curated by Martin Kemp and Martin Kemp. Barbican Art Gallery, London. Through Jan. 27.
In This is London, Brian Sewell reports: “We have had enough of niminy-piminy titillating surveys, enough of donnish picture books for dons who never touch young flesh; we need, instead, a disciplined enquiry, not just by art historians but by specialists who know something of medicine and the erotic workings of the mind, for on the one hand we have great works of art at which we gaze and genuflect, and on the other we have the sex shop selling goods that employ the same imagery, but in such ways and with such objects as may appall the aesthetic sensibility….Have the curators responded to my plea for an academic study of pornography? Alas, no: they have compiled a survey of pornography that is utterly unenlightening and stale. Read more.
In a lengthy piece in The Guardian, Jonathan Jones disagrees. He says the show is brave and intelligent. “People have been making erotica, or pornography, or whatever you want to call it, far longer than the 2,500 years this exhibition surveys. And you have to ask: has art ever been about anything else? As soon as the Greeks invented a lifelike way of depicting the human form, in the sixth century BC, they exploited their discovery to portray sex – as this show illustrates. Who was the beautiful Sapphic red-figure painting of two slender women with triangular breasts and curvy buttocks meant to be enjoyed by? …It’s a risky business, admitting to how much you enjoy looking at sex. I loved this show, but left feeling sad and ashamed; then I had to come back the next day and look again. It is the bravest and most intelligent exhibition of the year.” Read more.