Nudity in art galleries and museums – an opportunity for naturists?

Commercial art galleries very commonly sell photographs, paintings, and sculptures that depict nudity. Sometimes the art involves sexuality, and sometimes not. In either case, there is a large audience and large number of potential buyers for nude art. This has been true for centuries – certainly since ancient Greek and Roman times.[1]

Purchasers of nude art usually display their acquisitions proudly in their homes. These are not people who are squeamish about nudity, even if they do not participate in nude activities themselves, except perhaps very privately. Nude art often sells at impressive prices, at least when it is produced by established artists. Consequently, the percentage of the population that can afford quality art, whether it involves nudity or not, isn’t large. But, especially in large metropolitan areas, the potential market for quality nude art is not insignificant.

Most naturists have probably heard about art or photography galleries that allow or encourage visitors to be naked at certain times when art or photography containing nudity is on display. There’s usually not a lot of publicity about such events, since gallery owners and managers cater to people with a genuine interest in art. They do not want their events to be compromised by large numbers of people whose interest is primarily prurient – since that would probably discourage serious potential buyers. At the end of this note we’ll describe a few recent examples that did attract some publicity.

What this is leading up to is some thoughts occasioned by the “Dream of an Urban Nudist & Naturist Oasis” that was just discussed here. The issue was how to find a viable business model for a place in a large urban area that would welcome naturists to visit and relax naked. Most of the ideas involved traditional naturist activities such as hot-tubbing or swimming. The problem with that is the potential clientele will probably, at least at first, be limited to people who already have some experience with naturism. So one wonders what might be done to appeal to a wider audience.

Let’s allow our imaginations a little freedom here. What could be offered to appeal to a broader audience – such as people with an interest in serious art? Suppose, to start with, you have a few thousand square feet of indoor space available, perhaps in something modest like an old warehouse. That space wouldn’t need to require large capital expenditures to put in hot tubs, swimming pools, saunas, or gym equipment. Instead, it would be partitioned to allow artists and photographers to display work they offer for sale. Commissions from sales would help finance this gallery space. The whole space would be clothing optional, for visitors and customers, as well as artists and staff.

In order for the space to serve also as a gathering place for people who simply want to enjoy it naked, part of the area would contain comfortable places for relaxing and conversation. There could also be coffeehouse type food and beverages available – the sale of which would also contribute to paying rent on the space. Additional customers could be attracted by special events such as poetry readings, public lectures, and simple musical, dramatic, or dance performances.

Various other nudity-related arts and crafts could be available for sale as well – ceramics, jewelry, leather goods, sandals, certain types of clothing that appeals to naturists (think “see-through”), etc. Another sort of income-generating activity could involve art and photography classes with nude models – and taught by experienced artists who also exhibit in this collective space. Customers who want artistic portraits or photographs of themselves nude could also be served. Or perhaps they’d even like to be the canvas themselves, for body-painting artists.

Instead of a conventional naturist/nudist venue, the overall ambience would be a kind of combination of coffeehouse, arts and crafts fair, and traditional art gallery – where clothing is optional for everyone. The advantage of this set-up is that revenue is generated in a variety of ways that support artists of many kinds, provide a wide variety of goods and services of clear value to customers, and allow for the existence of a pleasant clothing-optional environment.

Would it work? Until it’s tried, who knows? Here’s what George Bernard Shaw could remind us: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?'”[2]

Examples of clothing-optional gallery and museum events


MAda Shell Gallery, Ashland, Oregon

Ashland, Oregon is a college town, the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and also had a generally tolerant stance towards nudity. However in late 2009, there was some pressure to add a ban on nudity in the downtown area. The gallery manager (a City Councilor who opposed the ban) scheduled a clothing-optional event at his gallery for January 2010. The event was held and received a fair amount of news coverage: (1) Against nudity ban, Ore. gallery takes it all off; (2) Gallery showcases nude art. There was even a short talk by a clergyman (who got naked): Ashland Nude Art Show (YouTube video)

Leopold Museum, Vienna, Austria

Vienna’s Leopold Museum has one of the largest collections of modern Austrian art, including artists like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, both of whom created some fairly well-known examples of nude art. In February, 2013, the Museum put on an exhibit featuring nude art, in which free entrance was offered to naked visitors. According to a spokeswoman, “We’re offering free entrance to anyone who turns up in their birthday suit as a promotion for our latest exhibition The Naked Truth. We understand that some people may be shy, and so we’ll probably let them in free in swimming costumes, but we’re hoping once inside they’ll realise how liberating it is to look at the art in the nude.”[3] It seems to have been a success: “Museum goers didn’t just leave their coats at the coat check. They handed over their shirts, trousers and underwear. Everything, in fact, except their shoes and socks.”[4]

Mandatory nudity at museum tours in Australia

An Australian conceptual artist went all-in and held tours at several museums where nudity was required: “Australia’s Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney will be holding tours in which participants are required to shed their clothes and wander the galleries completely naked. The tours, taking place April 27-29, are organized by conceptual artist Stuart Ringholt, who will also be in the buff as he leads participants through the building. … The objective behind requiring viewers to browse art in their birthday suits is manifold. But one of the reasons is to remove any “barriers” between artist and the works of art and to gain a “new perspective” on the current exhibitions.”[5]

The combination of mandatory nudity with a guided museum tour was enough to provoke even the Smithsonian Magazine to “cover” the story: “40 fellow adventurers and I descended a spiral staircase to the museum’s most subterranean level and stripped off in a dimly lit theater. Followed by two naked staff members, we awkwardly reconvened beneath an indoor cliff of golden sandstone. I noted that the group was evenly split between men and women, thankfully representing all ages, shapes and sizes. As everyone wondered where to put their hands (and their eyes), the guide, Stuart Ringholt, helpfully explained that we should consider ourselves to be part of a conceptual artwork, which explores ‘issues of embarrassment and self-consciousness.'”[6]


1. Nude paintings, obscene sculptures and gods having sex with animals: Pompeii’s treasure trove of erotic artefacts which prudish scholars kept locked up

2. Back to Methuselah, part 1, act a – via The Quotations Page

3. Free Entrance to Nude Visitors at leopold Museum

4. Nude art lovers tour nude exhibit at Vienna’s famed Leopold museum

5. Australian museum holding naked art tours

6. Nudity, Art, Sex and Death – Tasmania Awaits You

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2 Responses to Nudity in art galleries and museums – an opportunity for naturists?

  1. Reblogged this on home clothes free and commented:
    Interesting idea

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