The topic of the nude male body in the great world of art is not new. In Bulgaria, however, attempts to present it in the museum/gallery space, as well as in the theoretical sphere are absent. Studied, researched, problematized, shared as a visual narrative, that history in our country remains marginalized.
“Every nude body, as abstract as it is, should arouse in the viewer a drop of erotic feeling, even if it is a pale shadow – and if it doesn’t, it is bad art and false morals” – noted in his capital research on the nude body in art Kenneth Clark. Even if we disagree with this ideology in its entirety, it seems we cannot find reasonable arguments to refute the claim that “naked”, at least on the territory of art, is associated with concepts such as sexual and erotic. Concepts, which in every period, seem to be a subject of redefinition by adding more branching arrangements and details. Concepts, which are reflected in the traditional culture of Bulgarians and have peculiar uses in a number of ceremonies, folk songs, mythological and poetic notions. However, in the exhibition “Nude Male Body 1856 – 1944”, which fits in itself not an exhaustive, but still representative sample of images, projections of this “use” can hardly be seen in pure form. What causes this? What distances the Bulgarian artist from the man's body? Why by conveying a nude man on the canvas by the artist, he turns simply to a non-erotic object, devoid of emotion? Where does this refusal of the artist to engage with the nude male body come from? How are these “uses” (with/)of the nude male body in the art of our country being perceived by the authors? And by the observer?
These are just a fraction of the issues that the team of this exhibition is trying to place in the space of Bulgarian fine art. The answers to these questions can hardly be unambiguous. But these are answers without which the nude male body will continue to make us look away in a feigningly uncomfortable manner.
The exhibition offers the first-ever visual narrative of this particular national closeness through the figure of the man that is left without clothes. The nude man who, for one reason or the other, after leaving the private space somehow turns into an object disturbing the society. The exhibition presents the development of educational male study throughout the period and the “use” of the nude male body in the work of artists in the country. Visitors can see 96 works – paintings, drawings and sculpture by 54 artists, some of which are iconic names in the history of Bulgarian art and other are forgotten and completely unknown to the general audience.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue and is implemented in a partnership with the National Gallery, Sofia, National Academy of Art, Earth and Man National Museum – Sofia, Union of Bulgarian Artists, the art galleries in Plovdiv, Kyustendil, Shumen, Pleven, Pazardzhik, Kazanlak, Stara Zagora, Lom, Studio-collection “Svetlin Rusev”, Foundation “Tzanko Lavrenov”, private collections of Aleksander Kerezov, Boyan Radev, Ventsislav Kadiev, Vladimir Georgiev, Ivo Raykov, Nikolay Mladzhov, Dr. Ognian Delibozov, Toma Nikolov and Hristo Balarev.
Curators: Adelina Fileva, Ramona Dimova, Plamen V. Petrov