Don’t Touch the “Art”

I’ve been resisting posting this story for days now, but I’ve finally relented, seeing that it refuses to go away. The New York art scene has made the headlines once again. The equation goes like this: contemporary art installation + nudity + the public = controversy. There you have it.

Currently on display at  MoMA is the Marina Abramovic exhibit, a retrospective which features photographs, videos, installations, and performances. In one part of the show, two nude models stand face to face in a gallery entrance requiring museum visitors to pass through the narrow space between them. By design, some tangential physical contact happens. But recently, things went too far, and an incident of actual groping took place. Read the full story in the NY Times and at our local news. Providing those links is as far as I’ll go with this story because frankly I’m a little tired of it, of MoMA, and of  “performance art” in general. UNLESS it’s David Livingston and his “Big Dick” series. Forget Marina Abramovic, this guy is a performance artist I can get behind!  The New Museum actually had the nerve to kick David out, which is ironic since his dick is far better than most of the art in that place. See all the Big Dick’s adventures in the city on Vimeo. In contrast to the MoMA nudes, people in the streets and subways are totally oblivious and just go about their business. Only in New York, kids 🙂

21 thoughts on “Don’t Touch the “Art”

  1. kseverny says:

    i really dont know where i stand on this one.
    i dont dissaprove of what they do in the name of expression.
    but as an artform, where is the creativity?
    Where’s the skill?

    • artmodel says:


      I’m sort of on the fence with you. I guess it depends on the individual situation. However, I do think a lot of skill went into constructing that big dick 😆 😆

      Thanks for commenting!


  2. I think the human form is the most beautiful thing on earth, and I also believe in the right to perform art, but not the right to force that art on those who disagree with that art. I think so many artist get caught up in the art of controversy and shock just to get the attention and fame. In my opinion art should be for those who want to see or hear your art, not forced upon one. My question would be if these people would be o.k. if I shot a deer and gutted it in a room of unwilling vegans or vegetarians, in the name of art. Would they be disgusted and try to do something legally? Adult artist can do want they want behind closed doors, but to bring it forcefully into public, to me is the easy way out for those not getting attention by their talent alone. But again, like I have always said… What do I know!

    • artmodel says:


      Just for clarity, I assume you’re referring to the guy with the dick, not the Abramovic exhibit? Her show is indoors at the Museum of Modern Art. Nobody has to see it unless they go there, so it isn’t being inflicted upon an unwitting public.

      The Big Dick, however, is walking around the city. Though is seems like most of the public are unfazed!


  3. DaveL says:

    Thanks for posting the link to that video. You really gotta love New Yorkers. All way to cool to ever react to anything. LOL I was not familiar with David Livingston’s work before. Something I need to correct, given our similar names. He’s probably a distant relative since my last name used to be spelled that way a few generations back, before illiteracy intervened.

    And, don’t get me started on post-modernism. Really. I’m still incensed at the nicest room in the new modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago…floor to ceiling windows overlooking Millennium Park…and what’s on the walls? Nothing but blank white canvases. Please!

    To quote a friend, “Isn’t it time someone took post-modernism out in a field and put a bullet in its head?”

    • artmodel says:


      I was totally thinking of you when I read about Livingston! I wonder if you are distant relatives. That would be funny!

      Yeah, the contemporary art scene brings out strong feelings in many people. Your description of what they did to the modern wing at the AIC is an example of the worst form of the genre. Things like that are the reason people hate contemporary art. If I saw that it would piss me off too.

      As far as New Yorkers being oblivious to the Big Dick, it is pretty typical. We are oh-so jaded! Also, don’t forget that we have lot of dicks walking around the city, so one more is no big deal 😆


  4. KL Foster says:

    I can’t..stop laughing Claudia! I’m with with you on this one..stay far behind him!

  5. Vishinsky Designs says:

    That guy with the dick reminds me of the show Jackass .

  6. I went to see the Abramovic show. Waaaaay more interesting to read about than to visit. The Kentridge drawings in the next room were fantastic though.

    • artmodel says:


      I am hearing raves about Kentridge. I saw just a few examples online but I’d like to see the show. I guess I’ll see Abramovic while I’m there.

      Thanks for your comments.


  7. fred says:

    If you give it a chance and really experience it and think about it, Abramovic’s best work has great spiritual rigor and grace. It also shows amazing discipline and craft, though not of the traditional kind. In any case, her work is part of a movement of radical experimentation, a serious attempt to expand the limits of what an artistic experience can be. It was and remains influential and absolutely deserves to be in MoMA, even if a lot of people can’t really open their minds to it. Speaking for myself, when I compare the experimentalism of the 70’s, represented by Marina Abramovic, with the experimentalism of our time, represented by Damian Hirst, I find the former admirably daring and the latter cynical and lazy.

    It’s unfortunately to be expected that a few creeps, for whom all nudity is implied sex, will misbehave. Those of us who work at life drawing sessions have run into the same kind of people. We toss them out and get back to the work at hand.

    I’m not sure if asmalltowndad was referring to Marina or to the Big Dick man, but it should be noted that all the nude performances in the Abramovic retrospective are in separated galleries on the sixth floor of the museum, with ample warning and guard cover. It is not forced on anyone or placed where anyone will come upon it unawares. In any case, to compare some nude bodies in an artistic context to gutting an animal for shock purposes is a really inappropriate comment.

    • artmodel says:


      That was such an eloquent and thoughtful endorsement of Abramovic’s work. And by the way, you will NEVER hear me defend Damian Hirst! In that context, your point is especially well taken.

      With the disclaimer that I have not seen the Abramovic show and therefore cannot give an informed judgement, I will just comment on the issue of the nude models. In the Times article I linked to, numerous incidents are described, and they are, in my opinion, totally, totally unacceptable. It doesn’t matter that the performers are there willingly or have handled the situations well. That’s irrelevant. It’s quite clear that exhibits of that nature, more often than not, bring out the worst in museumgoers and stir the basest urges in human nature. Live nude people in a context outside of an art class invites not only bad behavior but confusion. From what I hear, these incidents at the Abramovic show are happening daily.

      i guess the problem with a lot of contemporary art is its prentension that people have to “get it” in order to understand and appreciate it. Perhaps a higher level of sophistication and intellectual depth is necessary to fully absorb its value, as in the case of the Abramovic show. But on the other hand, some of us do “get it” and still don’t like it! But you can’t tell that to contemporary art fanatic. They will insist that the problem is with YOU, that you’re the one with the limited imagination, and I don’t appreciate that kind of snobbery.

      Personally, I don’t challenge the right of anything to exist or an artist’s chosen style of expression. It’s just that much of it doesn’t speak to me, that’s all.

      Thanks so much for your great comments, Fred!


      • fred says:

        I really don’t think the groping incidents are happening all that often. The media loves to play that up. My friend Gary, who is one of the performers, and who was interviewed for that article, mentioned a couple of incidents when I spoke to him before the article in the times came out. What is far more common than the groping incidents, and in my view almost as egregious, is people trying to exploit the show to get publicity for themselves and their own often rather juvenile creative efforts. What impressed me in talking with Gary about his experiences doing the Abramovic reperformances is that for him it has been a transformative and enlightening experience – a sacred ordeal. And that, I think, gets at what the work is ultimately about.

        I don’t think anyone is required to like that kind of art, but I get a little tired of people passing judgment on it based on nothing more than media descriptions. Abramovic is only one of many artists, some working in the fields of theater or dance rather than art galleries, that did radical experimentation with the idea of art as heightened or altered experience. For me, it’s the most interesting thing that happened in the arts in the second half of the 20th century, and I have to say that my own work and creative process would not be what it is without the influence of that kind of art.

        Did you ever see the film “My Dinner with Andre”? That film blew my mind as a young person, and was one of the things that made me start seeing art in terms of experience, rather than object.

  8. Andrew says:

    I don’t have any categorical objection to having a nude model pose at a gallery opening. It might be particularly interesting if the model poses next to a painting of that model in the same pose.

    But obstructing a doorway with two nude people is not modeling. It does not celebrate the artwork, the figurative art genre, or anything. The only purpose is to create an awkward and uncomfortable situation… and to generate media attention.

    • artmodel says:


      Your theory about generating media attention is definitely on the mark with the Abramovic show. This has gone way beyond a mere “buzz”. It’s practically the talk of the town, in art circles at least.

      Like I said in my above comment to Fred, I have not seen the show yet. But it does sound like a deliberate attempt is made to create an awkward situation with the nude models. As I see it, doing such a thing actually plays right into the hands of peoples’ discomfort with nudity, rather than liberating us from our latent nude fears. Making people uncomfortable around live nudes only reinforces those provincial attitudes. I don’t know if that is Abramovic’s intention, but as a professional nude model I find it counterproductive. I myself wouldn’t want to serve that purpose with my nude body. But that’s just me 🙂

      Thanks Andrew!


      • Andrew says:

        We are absolutely on the same page. I’m starting to believe in telepathy because I was going to make the same point — almost verbatim — but I resisted because I felt a rant building in me. I agree that shock value gimmicks reinforce the fear and discomfort with nudes. It is indeed counterproductive to those of use who try to promote appreciation of fine art nudes as a wholesome and natural subject. The fixation with nudity=naughty is such a myopic view.

        However, judging by the buzz and media coverage, I’m sure the promoters consider it a successful gimmick.

  9. Ron says:

    Does Big Dick have to pay an extra fare when he rides the subway or an extra admission when he enters (no pun intended) the museum? And shouldn’t the soundtrack to the videos be Little Richard?

  10. & then there’s the festival in Japan, Kanamara Matsuri, which translates as; ‘Festival of the Iron Penis’. It’s in Kawasaki in April. 🙂

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