Page 1




…between eroticism  and  pornography,  they  think  that  they  are  one  and  the   same  thing!   In  this  article  I  take  a  closer  look  at,  what  is  meant  by  erotic  art,  how  you  might   define  it  and  if  it  is  possible  to  distinguish  it  from  pornography.      

By Grith  Stagaard  Gough  for  EROTIC  ART  LOVER  

  Sculpture  by  Kasper  Holten  

'Ta' mig  hvis  du  tør'  -­‐  Pottery  figure.    Erotikkens  Kunst  2012  

      Does  Erotic  Art  =  Pornography?       Earlier   this   year   I   paid   a   visit   to   a   couple   of   different   exhibitions,   both   of   which   were   marketed   as   promoting   and  selling  erotic  art.         The  first  exhibition  I  saw  was  the  ‘Art  Erotica’  in  January   of   this   year,   arranged   by   Cork   Street   Open   Exhibitions   and   following   that,   I   went   along   in   February   to   the   exhibition   ‘Erotikkens   Kunst’   (The   art   of   Eroticism),   arranged  by  Bettina  Sinnet  Fornitz  owner  of  Gallery  Eros.          

Art Erotica  

Docken where  Erotikkens  kunst  was  held.  

In both  of  these  shows  the  organizers  felt  compelled  to  distinguish  and   differentiate   between   art   and   pornography,   perhaps   in   order   not   to   discourage   those   who   do   not  like  pornography  or  disappoint  those  who  do.     The  art  that  was  chosen  to  go  on  show  for  both  the   exhibitions  reflect  just  how  wide  the  range  of  art  is   which  is  displayed  in  the  name  of  eroticism.       Yet,  in  my  experience  many  people  do  not  stop  to   consider   whether   or   not   there   is   a   difference   between   art   and   pornography,   they   just   assume   that   when   you   say   erotic   art,   you   actually   mean   porn.     Perhaps  I  have  been  unlucky  but  when  I  tell  people   Composite  Sculpture  –  Orc3  No.3  of   4  by  Jas  David.                                                                         that   I   work   with   erotic   art,   a   good   number   have   Art  Erotica  2012.   said:  “Oh,  do  you  mean  pornography?”    I  tell  them   no,   but   I   do   not   blame   them   for   asking   the   question,  because  there  is  no  easy  and  universally   accepted  objective  definition  of  erotic  art.       The   reason   no   such   objective   definition   exists,   is   that   the   interpretation   and   understanding   of   the   many   aspects   that   play   a   role   in   erotic   art,   such   as   aesthetics,   sexuality,   sensuality,   morality   and   taboo,  differ  substantially.       Our   perception   of   what   makes   a   piece   of   art   sensual   or   sexual,   morally   acceptable   or   obscene,   comes   down   to   our   social   and   cultural   upbringing,   C-­‐type  print  -­‐  A  shade  above   which  forms  our  subjective  beliefs.     (II)  by  Chris  Cook.                                         Art  Erotica  2012.                               Shunga  -­‐  Photography  -­‐  by  Thomas  Hodges.                                                                     Nancy  Farmer  -­‐  Drawing  -­‐  The  Fairy  Ring.             Art  Erotica  2012   Art  Erotica  2012  

Etymology     So  if  it  is  difficult  to  clearly  and  objectively  define  erotic  art,  can  it  be   separated  from  pornography?  Let’s  take  a  look  at  the  original  meaning   of  the  words  erotic  and  pornography.       Erotic:   1620s (implied in erotical), from Fr. érotique (16c.), from Gk. erotikos "caused by passionate love, referring to love," from eros (gen. erotos) "sexual love" (see Eros).


Back to  Front  -­‐  Mixed  media  on   canvas  by  Beverley  Bourne.                             Art  Erotica  2012  

1857, "description of prostitutes," from Fr. pornographie, from Gk. pornographos "(one) writing of prostitutes," from porne "prostitute," originally "bought, purchased" (with an original notion, probably of "female slave sold for prostitution;" related to pernanai "to sell," from PIE root per- "to traffic in, to sell," cf. L. pretium "price") + graphein "to write" (see -graphy). Originally used of classical art and writing; application to modern examples began 1880s. Main modern meaning "salacious writing or pictures" represents a slight shift from the etymology, though classical depictions of prostitution usually had this quality.

  Looking  at  the  etymology  of  erotic  the  implication  is  that,  when   you  speak  about  eroticism  you  must  be  referring  to  love  or  sexual  acts   of  lovemaking.  Love,  of  course,  is  itself  a  broad  term  and  love  can  refer   to   an   emotional   experience   as   well   as   a   spiritual   experience   but   also   the   physical   act   of   sexual   love   and   they   are   neither   mutually   exclusive   nor  inclusive.   Etymology   furthermore   shows   that   pornography   from   ancient   time   refers   to   sales   of   sexual   services,   services   in   the   form   of   prostitution   but  also  as  the  sale  of  naughty  pictures  and  writings  meant  to  act  as  an   aid   to   sexual   gratification.   So   it   seems   you   cannot   speak   about   pornography   without   speaking   about   eroticism.   But   is   it   possible   to   speak  about  eroticism  without  speaking  about  pornography?       When  I  initially  set  out  to  explore  and  investigate  the  field  of  erotic  art,   I  truly  felt  and  believed  that  I  with  my  knowledge  of  the  arts  and  my,   admittedly  limited,  experience  of  pornography,  would  be  able  to  make   a  distinction  between  erotic  art  and  pornography.       You  could  say  that  I  almost  felt  a  kind  of  urgency  in  separating  the  two   from   one   another.   Why,   you   might   ask?   Well,   my   experience   of   pornography  consisted  primarily  of  ugly  still  and  moving  images,  hard   and   unemotional   action,   very   poor   acting   or   stilted   posing   and   very   little  imagination.  Erotic  art,  I  felt,  offered  something  entirely  different.  

Anonymous -­‐  Shunga  print.                                                           Erotikkens  Kunst  2012  

Shadow in  the  moment  of  your  hearts   nervous  twitch-­‐  Filmed  wax  on-­‐  mini  t.v.   inside  peep  box  by  Eliza  Bennett.                         Art  Erotica  2012  

In erotic  art  I  found  beauty,  imagination,  creativity,  storytelling,   titillation   and   emotion.   In   short,   I   felt   stimulated   on   different   levels   and   in   particular   by   the   artistic   quality.   Hence,   I   made   a   conscious  effort  to  separate  the  two,  because  I  didn’t  want  to  be   seen  as  a  proponent  of  pornography,  a  genre  with  which  I  felt  a   complete  lack  of  affinity.     In   my   own   head   I   created   a   divide   between   erotic   art   and   pornography  based  on  their  defining  and  dividing  aims.  I  believe,   like   many   others,   that   the   central   aim   of   pornography   is   to   stimulate  sexual  arousal  in  the  audience.  This  contrasts  with  the   primary   aim   of   erotic   art,   which   is   not   to   stimulate   sexual   arousal   but   rather   to   draw   attention   to   aesthetic   qualities,   emotional   responses   or   intellectual   ideas.   I   did   not   reject   the   possibility   that   a   physical   response   of   a   pleasant   nature   might   also  occur,  but  it  was  only  acceptable  as  a  side  effect.       Chinese  painting  -­‐  silk?                                                               Erotikkens  Kunst  2012   Admittedly,   I   was   first   and   foremost   taking   the   intellectual   approach   of   an   academically   trained   art   historian   when   judging   and   evaluating  the  works  I  came  across.  Nevertheless,  I  (now)  think  it  is  a   shame   if   anyone   rejects   the   potential   for   a   stimulating   bodily   experience  when  viewing  erotic  art,  as  eroticism  after  all  often  plays   to  the  physical  and  tactile.         Sometimes   though,   eroticism   only   figures   as   the   underlying   theme   in   the   artwork   and   in   such   cases   erotic   art   does   not   show   graphic   scenes   of   sexual   behavior   (see   my   post   about   ‘Birth-­‐day’   by   Sam   Winston).  Still  in  a  lot  of  erotic  art  the  reference  to  love  and  sexual   Birthday  by  Sam  Winston   relations   are   more   or   less   visually   obvious   and   hence   easily   recognizable  as  a  piece  of  erotic  art.     As   I   have   seen   more   and   more   erotic   art,   I   have   found   the   lines   between   erotic   art   and   pornography   beginning   to   blur.   Some   works   of   art   I   have   seen   are   distinctly   graphic   in   terms   of   sexual   content,   yet   may  still  possess  a  high  degree  of  artistic  quality  in  terms  of  aesthetics.   Jan  van  Rijn’s  works  are  preeminent  examples  of  this.       So  how  do  you  determine  whether  content  or  form  comes  before  the   other?   Sometimes   it   is   impossible   to   determine   whether   it   is   the   artist’s   intention   to   arouse   sexual   stimulation   or   whether   it   is   a   desire   to   draw   attention   to   formal   qualities   and   provide   an   aesthetic   experience   that   comes   first.   Faced   with   this   conundrum   my   solution   was  to  label  this  type  of  art  pornographic  art  1.    Untitled  -­‐  by  Jan  Van  Rijn     1.  I  recently  came  across  a  description  of  the  term  pornographic  art  in  Dr  Hans  Maes’  essay  ‘ART OR PORN: CLEAR DIVISION OR FALSE DILEMMA?’  (Warning:  This  is  not  light  reading!).    

Nevertheless, I   realize   that   the   application   of   a   term   such   as   pornographic  art  is  also  subject  to  debate,  because  people  vary  greatly   in   what   they   find   sexually   explicit   and   indeed   what   and   when   they   consider   something   a   pleasing   or   interesting  aesthetic  experience.           Things   are   rarely   as   black   and   white   as   I   might   like   them   to   be.   I   have   experienced   this   on   numerous   occasions.   For   instance   when   I   have   been   out   to   speak   about   erotic   art   and   people   have   told   me   that   they   perceived  various  works  of  erotic  art  presented  in  my   slideshow  as  pornography  rather  than  erotic  art.                      Gilberto  Giardini’s  picture  of  a  man  sucking  on  a  baby’s  bottle  is  always  an  image   that  creates  controversy.  Although  I   do  not  personally  find  it  the  least  bit  sexually   arousing,   I   do   find   it   artistic   and   very   clearly   erotic   in   its   visual   reference   to   the   connection   between   oral   stimulation   and   sexual   satisfaction.   To   me   this   is   an   interesting   erotic   image   and   not   least   because   I   have   seen   this   image   cause   outrage   and  heard  accusations  of  pornography  slung  at  it.  

  What  will  be  perceived  as  boring  or  plain  uninteresting  to  one  set  of   eyes,   might   just   be   the   right   amount   for   arousal   and   stimulation   for   another   or   too   much   and   outrageous   for   a   third   person.   It   all   comes   down  to  perception  and  personal  preference.     Which   brings   me   back   to   the   two   shows   ‘Art   Erotica’   and   ‘Erotikkens   Kunst’   (The   art   of   Eroticism)   that   I   saw   at   the   beginning   of   the   year.   Both   of   these   recent   exhibitions   have   highlighted   just   how   difficult   it   can  be  to  separate  the  erotic  from  the  pornographic.       Art  Erotica  2012   _________________________________________________________________________________     On   the   evening   of   the   private   preview   for   the   Art   Erotica   exhibition,   I   overheard   one   guest   comment   to  another:  “I  don’t  like  that  picture.  It  is  not  art,  it   is  pornography!”       Nevertheless,   it   is   important   to   remember   that   a   handful   of   very   competent   art   professionals   felt   this  work  merited  the  label  erotic  art  otherwise  it   would  not  have  been  shown  at  the  exhibition.           Look  Dick,  See  Jane  Blow  It    -­‐  pen  on  carbon  paper  -­‐  by   Chris  Shaw  Huges                                                                                                                                           Art  Erotica  2012    

The day   after   the   Art   Erotica   preview,   I   went   along   to   an   Art   Breakfast   to   hear   exhibition   organisor   Kathryn   Roberts   and   one   of   the   jurors   for   the   exhibition,   Daryl   Champion   editor   of   Something   Dark,  talk  about  selection  criteria  for  the  exhibition.       It  was  interesting  to  learn  that,  out  of  the  exhibitions  five  jurors  who   had   made   up   the   selection   jury,   three   came   from   an   academic   art   background   and   had   fairly   conservative   and   mainstream   views   on   what   constitute   erotic   art,   in   opposition   to   the   last   two   jurors   who   had  quite  different  views  on  erotic  art.  Essentially  three  of  the  jurors   felt   that   the   representation   of   a   nude   body  was  enough  to  constitute  a  piece   of  erotic  art.       Nude  -­‐  Oil  on  canvas  -­‐  by  William   The   other   two   jurors   felt   that   erotic   Sienna   Bate.                                                                                                                                             art,   in   this   context,   should   represent   a   Art  Erotica  2012   visual   statement   that   push   on   and   beyond   the   boundaries   of   what   is   commonly   accepted   and   were   we   perhaps  feel  comfortable.       But   any   jurying   situation,   as   Daryl   Champion   explained,   is   by   nature   a   Part  of  a  Woman  -­‐  Photograph  on   process   where   compromises   have   to   be   Aluminium  –  by  Syreeta  M  King.           made   and   reached.   Perhaps   this   is   no   Art  Erotica  2012   bad   thing   because   it   means   that   the   works  selected  to  go  on  show  appeals  to  different  tastes  and  therefore   reaches  more  people.       I  certainly  felt  the  jurors’  different  points  of  view  came  across  clearly   in  the  works  selected  for  exhibition  which  ended  up  showing  a  diverse   range   of   works.   Click   here   to   see   all   the   works   shortlisted   for   the   exhibition.    

Vulnerability in  the  Landscape  –  Drawing  –  by  Lindi  Kirwin.                         Art  Erotica  2012  

  Dig  For  Victory  -­‐  tweed  on  canvas,  laminate  imagery,   acrylic  –  by  Gemma  Hadley.                                                                                                           Art  Erotica  2012  

Erotikkens Kunst  (The  Art  of  Eroticism)        

Erotikkens  Kunst  Udstilling  ,  Docken    2012.  

After   my   visit   to   London   in   January   I   was   excited   to   hear   that   Copenhagen’s  local  erotic  art  gallery,  Gallery  Eros,  would  be  renting  a   big  exhibition  space  in  order  to  put  on  a  big  show.       Prior  to  the  exhibition,  Erotikkens  Kunst  (The  art  of  eroticism),  I  read   in  an  interview  with  Gallery  Eros’  owner  Bettina  Sinnet  Fornitz,  that   in   preparation   for   the   show,   Fornitz   felt   she   had   to   give   consideration  to  the  difference  between  pornography  and  erotic  art.   Unfortunately  it  was  not  clear  what  she  found  the  difference  to  be,   which   would   have   been   interesting   to   know,   especially   in   view   of   what  was  shown.   One thing is for sure, Fornitz’s past auction house experience clearly shone through in the works she selected for exhibition at Docken. In practical terms this meant that the art on show in the 2000 sq. meters large space, was a virtual mish mash of styles, types and mediums. Ceramic  vessel.                                                               Erotikkens  Kunst  2012  

Untitled -­‐  by  Bjørn  Enevoldsen.  1988.                     Erotikkens  Kunst  2012  

The danger with such a broad selection is that it might leave some visitors confused about what they were seeing, particularly if one was hoping to find or looking for a red thread. But on the other hand you could argue that presenting visitors with a very broad selection there is a higher probability that you would find something to suit every taste.

One of  the  first  paintings  you  saw  when  entering  the  exhibition  was   this  large  and  colourful  work  by  Danish  artist  Sara  Koppel.  It  was  also   Sara  Koppel  who  had  created  the  short  erotic  film  that  had  its   premiere  at  the  exhibition.      

Countless Lovemaking  by  Sara  Koppel,  Erotikken  Kunst  2012.

The fact that one woman alone organized the exhibition was impressive. Unfortunately lack of time or poor organizational skills meant that when the exhibition opened, a good deal of the works in the very large space had no information to guide the visitor. To some extent you could argue that the lack of the artwork’s title and the artist’s name makes for a more immediate experience of the work. Not listing a price however, really is unforgiveable particularly when every work of art shown purportedly is for sale.

Photograph -­‐  Artist  unknown  -­‐  Erotikkens  Kunst  2012

Title, artist  &  medium  unknown.                                                                                                                     Erotikkens  Kunst  2012   Classic  Portrait  –  Holland  c.  18th  century.                         Erotikkens  Kunst  2012  

Mughal miniature  style  painting.                                                                                                                               Erotikkens  Kunst    

Drawing on  paper  c.  1800.                                                                                 Erotikkens  Kunst  2012  

Title, artist  &  medium  unknown.                                                                                                                     Erotikkens  Kunst  2012  

Akio Takamori  -­‐  pottery  sculpture  of   amorous  couple.                                                 Erotikkens  Kunst  2012  

Afrodite –  Oil  on  canvas  -­‐  Sanne  Glissov.                                                                                                                                                                                           Erotikkens  Kunst  2012.  

To summerize I would say that the Art Erotica show were much more edgy and borderline in terms of presenting works that many people would accept as art. In comparison the Danish show felt much more ‘safe’ but at times also a little boring, although to be fair there were definitely some interesting pieces too, like Sanne Glissov’s work Afrodite which demanded attention and closer scrutiny. Did I find any of the works titillating? Mostly no, but I did find some works very aesthetically pleasing and intellectually interesting and I would recommend a visit to next years Art Erotica.

Marble sculpture  by  Jerry  Adder.                                                           Erotikkens  Kunst  2012  

Title, artist  &  medium  unknown.                                                                                                                   Erotikkens  Kunst,  2012  

Article: The difference between pornography and eroticism.  
Article: The difference between pornography and eroticism.  

Article about the difference between pornography and eroticism. Cover image Copyright of Nancy Peach.