October 13, 85 people strolled through the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) in their birthday suits, enjoying the exhibition FOCUS: PERFECTION – ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE, in the company of Museum Guides. In response to an invitation published in Fugues magazine, the event’s partner, the available spots were sold out in a matter of days. This is the first activity of its kind to be held at the Museum.
The American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, subject of a major retrospective on display at the Museum until January 22, 2017, is renowned for his novel approach to photographing the nude. His exquisitely composed and meticulously lit photographs exalt the beauty of the body and spark reflection on questions of gender, identity and sexuality.
True to its values of openness, tolerance and inclusion, the MMFA, in collaboration with Fugues, wanted to celebrate the diversity of the human body and freedom of expression in its own way, without judgement. This invitation to explore the exhibition in the nude was an opportunity to celebrate positive body image and self-affirmation in a respectful, convivial atmosphere. This group experience also enabled participants to explore how nudity can transform their relationship to art in a museum setting.
“The notions of identity, self-representation and affirmation of the body, which Robert Mapplethorpe expressed so compellingly, inspired us to create this unusual visit. And the interest it has sparked has surpassed our expectations! In keeping with its mission, the Museum strives to offer a variety of unique experiences that attract close to one million visitors yearly. With this type of activity, we are again demonstrating that difference has its place at the Museum,” explained Thomas Bastien, head of Education and Community Programmes at the Museum.
This visit follows other initiatives aimed at promoting the expression of differences and self-esteem at the Museum. From the exhibition Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, to a guided tour of its encyclopedic collections on the theme of body diversity, and the installation Be Loved, presented alongside the Mapplethorpe retrospective, the MMFA’s cultural and educational programme underscores the importance of celebrating diversity.
"Taking part in this guided tour was a challenge I set for myself that interested me because it makes us question our relationship with our bodies. I found the experience very interesting," said Camille, who took part in the naked tour.
Similar visits have taken place at other museums, including the Leopold Museum in Vienna, for the exhibition Naked Men in 2012-2013, as well as the National Gallery of Australia in 2015, in connection with the James Turrell retrospective.