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First Art Erotica exhibition ends with promise of more to comeLatest News ->

Sat 28 Jan, 2012.

Carry With Both Hands, by Adam Stockman

Art Erotica, the exhibition that caused the odd stir in Mayfair’s gallery precinct, closed yesterday, Friday 27 January, after a memorable ten days that included more than just the exhibition itself.

Beginning with art critic, art historian and poet Edward Lucie-Smith’s address to the approximately 160 people attending the private view on 18 January, a series of public talks and discussions relating to the theme of erotica put the exhibition in a broader cultural context and, in so doing, lifted the exhibition onto a higher level of social and cultural relevance.

Exhibition founder and organiser Kathryn Roberts, and SomethingDark editor and member of the Art Erotica judging panel, Daryl Champion, provided an insight into the organisation and judging processes at a breakfast talk at the Green Park Hilton the morning after the private view. A major item on the programme was presented the next day, 20 January, and was one that we regarded as a highlight of the public events: a Friday evening of erotic poetry read by the renown English actors of stage, film and television, Richard Clifford and Frances Barber. The poetry wound through ages and styles, from Barber’s rendition of “Supremely Blest” by Sappho, to the captivating and electrifying masterpiece of modern eroticism by W. H. Auden, “The Platonic Blow”, read by Clifford.

On Saturday 21 January, Hans Maes, lecturer in the history and philosophy of art at the University of Kent, Canterbury, delivered a refined presentation critiquing the black-and-white view of art that would draw a clear division between what constitutes “art”, and what constitutes “pornography”. He convincingly argued that the reality of the creative process could involve shades of grey and that it was, in fact, this “grey” area where art and pornography overlap that some truly great and significant works of the former can be found. A key to creativity’s successful use or even appropriation of raw or radical imagery, Maes posited, is its skilled application in the production of work with high aesthetic values and cultural and artistic context.

Later Saturday afternoon, Daryl Champion engaged in a more informal dialogue based on his feature articles for SDk02, “The tabloid ecosystem and crimes against society” and “Max Mosley’s war for privacy is now a nation’s”. Focussing on the United Kingdom, he argued that the “tabloid culture” of the mainstream media plays a significant role in conditioning society to accept a level of privacy invasion that borders on the denial of the right to individual privacy. He suggested this virtual abrogation of the concept of privacy, together with the denigration of aesthetics promoted by the purveyors of tabloid culture over the last thirty years in particular, amounts to a process of population manipulation and facilitates the erosion of civil liberties and the institution of expanding powers of population control by an increasingly authoritarian state. Referring to Maes’ earlier presentation, Champion argued it was the more transgressive art in the “grey areas” of culture that is threatened by both tabloid culture and the legal sanctions of the state.

Edward Lucie-Smith made an encore the following Tuesday evening, 24 January, when he presented an accomplished survey of eroticism in Western art from the Venus of Willendorf (c. 24,000–22,000 BCE), through classical Greece and Rome, the Renaissance, the Baroque and Romantic periods, and through the twentieth century to today. Lucie-Smith’s delivery reflected a long and distinguished career and a wealth of knowledge, all of which were duly appreciated by what was the largest audience in the series of public talks.

The artists’ reception on Wednesday 25 January was a relaxed and well-attended event, and the public-talk programme wound up the following night with the BBC broadcaster and former Daily Telegraph arts editor, Godfrey Barker, whose presentation focussed around the question, “Did love and lust awaken something new in the late works of Picasso?”.

At the conclusion of the exhibition, Kathryn Roberts said she was “thrilled” with how many people viewed the first Art Erotica exhibition, and estimated that as many visitors passed through the doors of The Gallery in Cork Street as did during last year’s Cork Street Open Exhibition – an established annual exhibition of four years’ standing, also founded by Roberts.

The Gallery in Cork Street and Gallery 27 next door have been secured for next year’s Art Erotica, and in 2013 Roberts expects the exhibition, which will be held at the same time from mid- to late-January, to occupy both galleries. A similar programme of public talks and discussions will be arranged around the exhibition.

Preparation for Art Erotica 2013 will begin at the end of March, artists should be able to begin submitting entries in May, and the deadline for entries is presently scheduled for early November.

A review of the 2012 exhibition, “Art Erotica raises brows in Mayfair”, was published in the SDk Latest News section on 20 January.

SomethingDark webMagazine is one of the Art Erotica exhibition’s major sponsors.

Text copyright © SomethingDark 2012. Image copyright © Adam Stockman, and Art Erotica 2012. All rights reserved.