Details from a Billion Dollar Nudes Show

Gagosian Gallery in Midtown put up about a billion dollars worth of nudes, mostly men painting women. Here are a few details from the fleshy romp through modern and contemporary figure painting.

John Currin

What always surprises me when I’m lucky enough to get in front of a Currin is the brushyness of it.  The old master technique is visible on the surface, not secretive at all.

Aristide Maillol

The patina on this is stunning, lustrous.  You could treat a bronze cast of a clod of dirt with it, and I’d be mesmerized.  (A note of caution, I crushed my hand on the door handle going out to the roof deck. There’s not clearence for a hand to go between the handle and the door jam, rather odd really.)

Lucien Freud

The glass between the viewer and the art is always disappointing (Francis Bacon’s suffer similarly), but it makes sense as this work is likely worth 8 digits before the decimal.  Get up close to the hands and feet before the guards yell at you, it’s worth a close look



This Cézanne is basically a detail in the show, it’s tiny and in a huge frame (I’ve cropped about half of it out). The clarity of this piece in person is remarkable, the brushstrokes are fractured, stitched together like a quilt made by a drunkard, but the overall effect is crystalline.  I think this guy Cézanne knows what he’s doing, I’d like to sign up for the newsletter.


Another example of Currin’s subtle touch.  His sexually explicit and provocative content provides a convenient excuse for the prudish art viewer to dismiss his genius.  There’s probably not a greater figure painter working today than John Currin.  His women are attenuated, extra-vertebraed impossibilities that are marvelous to behold even as a close inspection shows you they’re about to rip apart.


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