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There’s a vulnerability intrinsic to being naked. Whether caught out, accidentally displaying more than you intended, or sprung when you least expected it, we are embarrassed by our bodies unless we are well prepared to bare all. National Portrait Gallery Director Angus Trumble went back to the Garden of Eden story in Genesis to explain our naked shame, and why we cover up and it’s not all about warmth, protection and display.
Bare at the NPG is where you can peruse varying degrees of nakedness, get up close with a mélange of media where the beautiful, the ordinary and the celebrated are presented in varying degrees of bare and enjoy a bit of a giggle as you realise when the clothes come off the bodies are pretty much as expected.
The design by Tim Moore and curatorial excellence by Penelope Grist is planned to explain the stories behind the pictures and while some remembered pictures are included there are treasures from the NPG’s vault never before displayed. Among them the late Russell Page, one of the talented trio of Page brothers from Bangarra Dance Company.
Impressive is the Michael Body portrait, a horizontal full frontal, where he’s caught out sleeping and that vulnerability is obvious as he wakes. So too the uncomfortable face and ‘intake of breath’ moment for MONA owner David Walsh in his bare all moment. But the pleasure of the not quite naked pictures is where this exhibition is fun. Whether manipulated in a pose to obscure the embarrassing bits - who could not love ‘Sherbert’ wrapped around each other- or scantily clad in something clever as Ian Thorpe in a partially painted on rubber suit and the Christine Keeler pose for Dame Edna Everage by Lewis Morley.
To find a favourite is not easy. But I love the Gulpilils, the youthful Heath Ledger and Nicole Kidman pictures and The Golden Girls of Australian swimming with their party frocks on. Its free, on now, and no there will not be bare events held in conjunction with the exhibition.