Paris's iconic Musée d'Orsay -- the railway station-turned-art museum on the left bank of the Seine -- has just opened a hot new exhibit celebrating and liberating the nude male form. The French Marie Claire magazine is calling it the hottest cultural event in Paris this fall.
The exhibit, titled Masculin/Masculin, runs from September 24 through January 2 and showcases male nudity in art from 1800 to the present day. As the Orsay notes on its website, there is a shameful double standard when it comes to nudity in art: the female nude is omnipresent, yet the male nude has fallen out of favor in the last 200 years.
Today, the nude essentially brings to mind a female body, the legacy of a 19th century that established it as an absolute and as the accepted object of male desire. Prior to this, however, the female body was regarded less favourably than its more structured, more muscular male counterpart. Since the Renaissance, the male nude had been accorded more importance: the man as a universal being became a synonym for Mankind, and his body was established as the ideal human form, as was already the case in Greco-Roman art...
Most artists being male, they found an "ideal me" in the male nude, a magnified, narcissistic reflection of themselves. And yet, until the middle of the 20th century, the sexual organ was the source of a certain embarrassment, whether shrunken or well hidden beneath strategically placed drapery, thong or scabbard.
According to the Orsay, until last year's Nackte Männer at Vienna's Leopold Museum there had never been an exhibition dedicated to the glories of the male nude.
Masculin/Masculin contains works from a diverse array of artists including Jacques-Louis David, Gustave Moreau, Edvard Munch, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paul Cadmus, and David LaChapelle. It is organized around themes of religion, mythology, athleticism, homoeroticism, and shifting notions of manliness.
Guy Cogeval, president of the museum, indicated that France's recent legalization of same-sex marriage helped pave the way for the exhibit. "I've been wanting to do it for the past 10 or 15 years but... society hadn't evolved to the point it has today."
Photos of several paintings included in the Masculin/Masculin exhibition are after the jump. (Possibly NSFW)