Art Trends: The New Nude

Is porn art? Is art porn? Today’s conversation deeper consideration than simply "who’s being fucked."

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13 June 2016, 12:40pm

Lindsay Dye. Via Motherboard

This article contains adult content.

 

A photo posted by Mark Johnson (@johnners63) on


Last May, notorious appropriation artist Richard Prince caused a stir during the Frieze Art Fair in New York when he revealed New Portraits, a series of photos of photos. He “stole” the images from the accounts of some Instagram-famous young women— models, musicians, and performers. The purloined content was connected by Prince’s interest and the space it occupied; each carefully curated candid sat squarely between a sext and a selfie, revealing Prince’s penchant for publishing things that are potentially pornographic, as well as a number of young artists’ own.

In 1969, Betty Tompkins took a similar approach to Prince’s with her own series of paintings. Her source material—tightly cropped hardcore pornography— caused her work to be banned all over the world. But the fact that Tompkins’s Fuck Paintings reemerged and were revered in 2013 speaks to a movement toward thinking more openly about sex and art.
 

 

Studio visit with Betty Tompkins always inspiring #bettytompkins @bettytompkinsart

A photo posted by P.P.O.W (@ppowgallery) on


Even Jeff Koons’s 1990 Made in Heaven, a series of snapshots with his then wife Ilona Staller, a porn actress best known by the name Cicciolina (Italian slang for “cuddly fat one”), promised to shake up the rising star’s career by unabashedly depicting graphic sex. The pictures aren’t close to being his most popular, but they set the bar for sex performed as art in a way that only a handful of artists, including Cosey Fanni Tutti, with her two-year foray into porn stardom (a performance-art project called Prostitution), had before.
 

 

Studio visit with Betty Tompkins always inspiring #bettytompkins @bettytompkinsart

A photo posted by P.P.O.W (@ppowgallery) on


In the age of the internet, however, art and porn intersect more than ever. “I’m past being frustrated with being naked on the internet,” artist, photographer, and "CamWomanLindsay Dye told Motherboard, after she decided to print and sell the physical copies of screenshots from her live shows that online harassers had started blackmailing her with in 2015. “Once I accepted it, my live shows and art were activated again. I want the circularity of the project [Buy Me Offline] to work in my favor, by taking back what is mine and selling what the recorders can’t: my physical artwork.” It’s a project in line with the My body is on the internet, deal with it declaration that Prince’s Instagram subjects each appear to suggest, both in theory and in praxis. It’s a declaration made daily, with aplomb, in the internet-based works of Zoë Ligon, Leah Schrager, Ann Hirsch, and countless others. OK then, what can we make? Prince asks with his series.

It seems high time we put to bed the divisive “art or porn?” debate. Today’s sex-based content deserves deeper consideration than simply who’s being fucked—not least because the market will buy or take the shirt off your back either way. Porn, like art, is what you make it.

This article appeared in the June issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

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