March 14, 2000 08:29pm
Suppressed Erotic Art
Source: News Wire
(Pompeii/Herculaneum, Italy) -- The Naples Archaeological Museum will be displaying for the first time erotic art from excavations more than 200 years ago at Pompeii and Herculaneum, cities which were buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The exact date of the opening, expected by the end of this week, has still not been announced because of objections from the Roman Catholic Church. The 18th-century archaeologists feared the materials would serve to "corrupt the morals of women and the young," and even with its present devotion to "free and full public access," the museum is barring children under ten from the exhibit. Although some of the 206 paintings, sculptures and other items were probably intended as pornography, others are believed to be just part of daily life, The London Times reported.
Colonials tried but failed to suppress the erotic art of aboriginal Canadians, and curators Lee-Ann Martin and Morgan Wood have brought it to the public eye again. Following a run of more than three months at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, they've taken the show called Exposed: Aesthetics of Aboriginal Erotic Art on the road, to open in Ottawa March 16. The works unmistakably portray both heterosexual and same-sex acts.
The 22 pieces in the show -- and Martin and Wood discovered many more -- are from various eras and include paintings, installations and videos. A number had been stored in major institutions for years without ever being exhibited. Some are associated with folk tales which are both erotic and humorous, and they're generally light-hearted or celebratory in tone. Martin told the Ottawa Citizen that, "What comes out of the exhibition is an enjoyment of being a human being." The show has been welcomed by native people as a step towards inclusion, while mainstream Canadians have been able to accept the spirit of the material without prudish objections. The next stop for the show will be Brantford, but further destinations are still under discussion.
Turner's Lesbian Erotica
The great British landscape artist J.M.W. Turner turns out to have done hundreds of erotic sketches as well, a few of which are now on display at the Tate in London through May 28. One in particular of the never-before-displayed works shows two women making love on a bed.
Two Turner sketchbooks, believed to date back to 1830, had been until recently lost in a storeroom at the Tate for nearly eighty years. Curator Ian Warrell found an 1858 letter in which the critic John Ruskin admitted to burning an unspecified number of sketchbooks of erotic drawings, telling National Gallery head Ralph Wornum that the drawings were "grossly obscene" and could not "lawfully be in anyone's possession." Ruskin at the time was in the process of cataloguing more than 20,000 works Turner willed to the nation at his death in 1857. Ruskin did save the two surviving sketchbooks, which he left in a paper bag with a note saying they were kept "only as evidence of a failing mind." Ruskin was both a devotee of Turner and a notorious prude, and Warrell even speculates that the discovery of Turner's erotica may have been a factor in the critic's ensuing loss of religious faith.