Why does the male nude get no respect?
For centuries, naked women in Western art have been openly celebrated as objects of desire. From Botticelli’s coy Birth of Venus circa 1485 to Annie Leibovitz’s 1991 portrait of a heavily pregnant Demi Moore, the female form has been idealized as a thing of beauty.
Pity the naked man. Popes throughout history have covered up the private parts of male nude sculptures in Vatican City. Even history’s most famous male nude, Michelangelo’s David, was subjected to the constrictions of modesty: London museum officials ordered a fig leaf be placed strategically over a replica in a London museum, after it shocked Queen Victoria.
Nude Men begins with statues from antiquity, including one of the Egyptian court official Snofrunefer dated 2400 B.C. But the bulk of the show chronicles developments in the past 200 years.
To promote the show, the Leopold hung 180 large posters in Vienna of Vive la France, a 2006 photograph by the French artists Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard showing three fully naked men posing with soccer balls. The ensuing criticism caused museum officials to draft contingency plans for protests and cover the players strategically with red ribbons.