Artwork of the Week: Return of the Nude

Mardi Gras: The Base, 2010. © Spencer Tunick

The Art: Return of the Nude
The Artist: Spencer Tunick

About the Work:

Early morning, and aspiring photographer Spencer Tunick was walking home after a night out with friends. The sun was beginning to rise, draping the silent streets of early-morning Boston in a stunning glow.

The scene was beautiful. Almost apocalyptic. With no cars on the road, and no other people in sight, it felt like something out of a movie.

“I knew I wanted to do something here”, says Tunick.

“I wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew that, one day, I’d be working in the streets at sunrise.”

From that meditative journey home bloomed a career that has taken Tunick from the streets of Montreal, to the Dead Sea, and Grand Central Station, as he creates major nude installations celebrated around the world.

This July, Tunick’s destination is Melbourne’s Chapel Street, where he will produce two installations as part of the PROVOCARÉ Festival of the Arts.

Entitled Return of the Nude, the event marks Tunick’s first work in Australia since 2010, when he united 5200 people on the steps of the Sydney Opera House to create a piece for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras: The Base.

Working in a live environment, and on such a scale, Tunick admits there’s a certain exciting element of the unknown that comes with each new work.

The street is the studio, and I’m learning things as I go. I can fail in public, but most artists work in studios, in private, and it’s only when they’re finished that they reveal the work to the public on their own terms.”

Unfortunately, it is a completely different kind of challenge that now threatens Tunick’s upcoming installation.

In an interview with The 8 Percent last week, Tunick expressed frustration regarding the securing of a location he had selected for the shoot. He revealed that the spot reminded him of something from Cameron Crowe’s ethereal 2001 film Vanilla Sky, and that he instantly knew it would be the perfect location to create something “provocative, transcendent…a gift to everyone who is participating”.

Today, PROVOCARÉ has revealed that the location in question is the rooftop carpark at Woolworths supermarket in Prahran. Woolworths have cited a “potential loss of trade” as the issue, but the festival says the early time frame of the event means it will have minimal impact. They have launched a petition calling on Woolworths’ executive leadership to reverse the decision.

10,000 potential participants have already applied to be part of Return of the Nude, and registration remains open.

What the future holds for the installation is uncertain for now, but one thing is for certain: when the day comes, no matter what happens, Spencer Tunick will stand on Chapel Street, in the warmth of the early morning sun, and capture an extraordinary moment in the timeline of the city, and its people.

PROVOCARÉ runs from July 5 – 15.
For all the details, click here.

To sign the petition in support of Tunick’s work, click here.

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