“Olympia” is a 1938 film by the German director Leni Riefenstahl, who is best known for producing propaganda during the Third Reich. After Adolf Hitler invited Riefenstahl to the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, she used footage from the events in addition to shots of ruins in Athens to piece together what is now a famous film. Riefestahl’s film utilized many innovative techniques for its time, like tracking and slow motion. The opening sequence to the film, which juxtaposes the great ruins of Greece and the idealized bodies of Greek sculptures with the perfectly toned (and starkly white…) bodies of athletes easily evokes the art of the Third Reich and its twisted re-interpretations of Greek ideals and “masculine” altheticism.
Of course, one cannot and should not divorce the film from the dark period that produced it. Today, the tropes of propaganda as used in this film seem almost laughable. Its patriotic track and and bizarre shots of, say, the human discus thrower, a brutally obvious connection to the Greek scultpure, seem more hilarious than enlivening. Yet, as one blogger featuring this film astutely points out, we can only understand today’s propaganda by studying that of the past and properly placing it in its historical context. I don’t intend for anyone to enjoy this film as simply “a piece of art,” completely devoid of context, but I do think that it can be studied as the result of a particular period and set of (completely misguided) values for the tropes it employs. After all, 1936 likely won’t be the last highly-advertised and bigoted Olympics….
Richard Phillips, Sasha II / 2012 / oil on canvas / 2013.4×382 cm
Last week Frieze, London’s famed art fair rose in two colossal white tents emerging out of the pristine landscape of Regents Park at either end of the central London park. Frieze Art Fair was placed at the south end of the regal park and Frieze Masters was situated at the top closer to the exclusive Primrose Hill where it returned to London for its 11th year. The world’s leading galleries all congregated together to exhibit their most important and relevant work from over thirty country’s. The pure size of each fair alone and the constant stream of visitors attempting to take photos on their iPhones of the contrasting art all crammed into the commercial setting of a monumentally big marquee created an unusual set up to view art. Completely different to visiting a gallery where the objective is purely to observe and appreciate artwork; Freize presents the visitor with the artwork as consumable goods. This instantly puts the visitor into a position where the value of the artwork and its current cultural value becomes overtly prominent. However, as the fair can be attended by the public understanding the reasons for each visitor becomes more complex as a trip to the fair is as recreational as it is to do with the business and economy of the art world.
However discouraging the structure that exists in the fair is, the very breadth and diversity of work to view is wonderfully eclectic, especially when visiting both fairs where the ultra contemporary can be viewed next to the medieval in the same setting. Besides from purely looking at each individual piece of art it was interesting to understand each galleries identity and how all of these galleries existed beside one another in what is essential the setting of a trade show. Perhaps in addition to the monetary value of the art and the galleries all becoming estranged neighbours the very layout and construction of the event was really quite overwhelming. The very fact that all of these paintings, photographs and sculptures had been shipped from quite literally all over the world is a fascinating concept. Each piece had made their own individual journey to arrive in London to be on show one short week for the hope of being sold.
Below we have chosen a selection of our favourite pieces shown at both Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters in correspondence to Sang Bleu’s tastes and ideals.
Marina Abramovic, The communicator / 2012 / wax, crystal quartz stones, glass pedestal, 25x10x3 cm
Guo Gendyi, avalokiteshvara (right) / 2002 / colored ink on rice paper / 68.2x189cm
Wolfgang Tillmanns, torso / 2013 / unframed ink jet print / 200×135 cm
Antonello Da Saliba, 1466-1535, Madonna and Child / Panel / 55.6×44.2 cm
Alex Katz, two building / 2002 / Oil on linen / 304.8×234.8 cm
Terry Adkins, apple pickers / 2002 / wood, glass / 205.7×30.5×30.5cm
TOMASSO BROTHERS FINE ART / London Leeds
Pierre Huyghe, untitled (mini floating & non floating rock) / 2013 / aquarium, salt water, volcanic rocks, dark grey sand, arrow crabs / 54x68x48 cm (aquarium) / 75x74x74 cm
Unknown tuscan painter active in Rome, 1615 – 1620 / The abduction of Ganymede / oil on canvas / 150.5×214 cm
all photos by Maxime
For the first time Bourdin’s work as a painter and his notes on film will be exhibited alongside his famed fashion photographs at this retrospective at the Kunstmeile Hamburg. The photographer’s detached and surreal cinematic style will be celebrated as expected but the exhibition will also show his detailed working method which has led onto him being considered one of the most visionary and important photographer’s in fashion history. Black and White photographs dating back to the 1950s showing portraits of Bourdin and views of the Paris that he lived in alongside sketches and notes will all be on show together. His photographs are known for being an area of which to present the fear of horror movies crossed with the uneasy mystery of a murder films all engulfed in layers of impenetrable glamour where the fashionable object on show becomes highly fetishised. Desire and sex are obsessive themes but he was able to turn around our expected notions of lust as something confusing, something filled with anxiety . There was this aspect of creating hyper-real landscapes in his work, skyless rooms with overpowering colour which resulted in an over all feeling of intense claustrophobia to his photography. These themes contrasted with models who appear so perfectly glamourised but simultaneously anonymous created wonderful but terrifying images.
His photographs will always be highly regarded and receive endless appraisal but what will be especially interesting in this exhibition will be the focus on Bourdin as an individual. His own personal life has been shrouded in as much mystery as his work radiates, dark rumours have always orbited him. The suicide of his wife and two of his girlfriend, his mother abandoning him as an infant and his treatment of the models being unpredictable are well none facts. Hopefully the exhibition will be able to delve into new light about this uncompromising photographer where it opens on the 1st of November as well as being a space to celebrate the importance and innovativeness of him as an artist.
If you haven’t already seen the documentary Dream girls - The photography of Guy Bourdin you can watch it here
You can also find out more details about the exhibition here
1 NOVEMBER 2013 – 26 JANUARY 2014
Showcasing attitudes far less prudish than those of today, the erotic imagery of Ancient Greece has been studied since the early 1990s. Ranging from the year 700 BC – 400 AD, these images depict numerous complex sexual relationships of Ancient Greece, from prostitution to pederasty. Considered to be as “natural” as the satisfaction gained from eating food or scratching your back, sex and sexual images were seen as signs of a healthy and functioning civil society. Erotic images were created to be seen by the entirety of the general public, adorning everyday objects, ceremonial vessels, and even the tiles of Ancient Greece’s municipal buildings.
Below, a gallery of some images from red-figure pottery:
Tons of information exists on art and sexuality in Ancient Greece, from the very scholarly to the easily accesible; for starters, check out the Museum of Cycladic Art’s 2009 exhibition on Eros.
Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum
British Museum, Great Russell Street,
London WC1B 3DG
Showing archaeological finds from the two ancient cities destroyed after the eruption of mount vesuvius in AD79, the exhibition provides material with which we can determine the more intimate details of the lives of their inhabitants. Among them is a statue of Pan – god of the wild, with hindquarters, legs and horns of a goat – known for his unparalleled sexual appetite, shown in a most primal setting, leaning forward visibly penetrating a goat.
The exhibition shows the statue, for the first time since it’s 1752 discovery, unsegregated from the rest of the collections, previously housed in a restricted section and only shown separately as part of a ‘pornagraphic’ Secret Cabinet display in 2000.
This exclusion acts as an interesting marker of sexual anthropology; projecting our modern sensibilities and attitudes to sex onto the lives of a civilisation living 2000 years prior to our own with a warning; opening up the potential for individual censorship, labelling something that would have sat so freely and unashamedly open when it was created, says a fair deal about how our understanding and openness to discuss and display the nature of our sexual desires has, or perhaps hasn’t, developed.
Marbles is a 2013 photo series by London-based photographer Ingrid Berthon-Moine that focuses specifically on the testicles of marble Greek statues found throughout Europe. The project worked towards “producing an indecipherable photograph oscillating between landscape and medical documentation.” and through these closely cropped images the photographer uses these details to examine 21st century masculinity and how both the representation of it and the idea of ornamental masculinity which until now had been largely ‘reserved’ to the female gender.