Nudity and Facebook censorship: Galleries chase Spencer Tunick for Museums at Night

By Ben Miller | 23 January 2014

Who will welcome Spencer Tunick this Museums at Night? Make your mind up as three great galleries make their will to win explicitly clear

A photo of a woman holding up a poster for an art exhibition while standing on a street
Brigitte Orasinski, the Artistic Director of Strange Cargo, implores the public to send Spencer Tunick to Folkestone© Picture: Folkestone & Hythe Express,
With a matter of days left before voting ends in Culture24’s Connect10 competition, the public vote so far – 37,000, eclipsing last year’s total of 30,000 – has been the result of passionate pleas for support from Scunthorpe to Soho.

Ten ballots are being held, and one instantly catches the eye: Spencer Tunick, an artist known for enticing the public to brave it in the buff, has already caused a nude flashmob at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, and a Naked Bike Ride to back the bid by Brighton and Hove Museums.

A photo of an exhibition poster showing people lying in rows nude on a street
Strange Cargo plan to host the event at George's House Gallery© Courtesy Strange Cargo
Their equally convincing rivals, Strange Cargo in Kent, are also campaigning hard to capture the New York based nude photographic artist. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us and the town,” says Brigitte Orasinski, their Artistic Director.

“We need to collect more votes than Hastings or Brighton. Spencer will be asking for people to participate in the project and everyone who is involved will be given their very own original Spencer Tunick portrait to keep.

"This is amazing and if we work together we can all make it happen.”

Rachel James, the participatory arts company’s General Manager, says the concept galvanises their capabilities.

“Our art projects and events involve working with hundreds of people, so we have a great network to tap into and the response has been overwhelming,” she explains.

“We also run the George's House Gallery, which is a much-loved space, so to win an exhibition by Spencer would be fantastic. Folkestone really wants this.”

Specially-made posters adorn the seaside town and venerable local newspaper the Kent Messenger paid organisers a visit this week.

But on Facebook, a local supporter’s decision to bare his backside, posing beneath the campaign message, “I’m ready for Spencer, are you?”, resulted in the social media giant’s moderators removing the picture of his posterior (“if I get blocked because of Keith's arse I'm going to be well p***** off,” chided one commenter, amid much hilarity).

“The Facebook campaign has taken on a life of its own,” confesses James, promising a number of “very visual” follow-ups on the site during the weekend.

“Polling stations are being set up in Chambers Cafe and bar, in the town centre, over the weekend to get as many more of our residents to vote as possible. This really has captured everyone’s imagination.”

Tunick himself has been known to fall foul of Facebook’s rules, and there was more cheeky sniggering in Hastings, where 30 hardy residents whipped their kit off to canvass for votes on a cold day by the coast.

A photo of a group of people standing on a beach nude while holding up banners
Jerwood Gallery supporters remained hardy in Hastings© Courtesy Ciaran McCrickard / Connors
“I thought it was really funny,” impromptu nudist Hannah Corke told the watching BBC news crew.

"It hasn't been done before. I gave birth five months ago and it's quite liberating to get naked in front of lots of people and get rid of that post-pregnancy fear."

Liz Gilmore, the Director of the Jerwood Gallery, said the vote provided “stiff competition”.

“Hastings is so celebrated for its special festivals including Jack in the Green, Pirate’s Day and Hastings Bonfire,” she added.

“The flash mob was organised to raise awareness of our campaign. The culturally rich and quirky traditions of Hastings and actual site location would make a wonderfully fitting context for new work by Tunick.”

Naked traditions thrive in Brighton, both in the museum’s collections - which hark all the way back to spear-hurlers and barbarian savages - and in the city’s traffic-stopping Naked Bike Ride, an annual mass cycle which will enjoy a special edition in support of the Culture24 Connect10 vote.

An image of a poster tacked to a wall imploring the public to vote for a museum
The wanted posters are out for Spencer Tunick in Brighton© Culture24
“We are really excited,” said Helen Grundy, the Creative Programme Manager at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, talking up Tunick’s potential visit to what she calls the “quintessential and famously off-beat seaside city.”

“Pleasure-seekers have been drawn here for more than 250 years, enjoying the decadent and cultured urban seascape Brighton offers.”

If they succeed, the artist will take individual portraits of 125 garbless locals in a city centre location. Whichever way the vote goes, these three galleries have already demonstrated their drive, enthusiam - and naked ambition.

  • Who wins? You decide. Nine fellow artists are taking place in Connect10 ballots - visit the campaign homepage to find out more and make your choices. Polls close January 28 2014 at 5pm. Museums at Night takes place between Thursday May 15 and Saturday May 17 2014.

A photo of a group of people standing on a beach nude while holding up banners
Flashing on the beach at Hastings© Courtesy Ciaran McCrickard / Connors
A photo of a group of people standing on a beach nude while holding up banners
Wet and windy conditions greeted the Jerwood supporters© Courtesy Ciaran McCrickard / Connors
A photo of two people riding a bike past a pavilion naked
More nudity could be heading near Brighton's Royal Pavilion© Tim Richardson / Image Catcher
A photo of three people standing on a beach nude holding bikes backs to the camera
The first Naked Bike Ride in the Sussex city was held in 2006© Roger Bamber 2006
A photo of a group of people riding through a colourful city street while naked on bikes
Could pedal power help decide the vote?© Alexis Maryon 2008

More on Museums at Night:

"We had the best fun": Cullinan Richards on Museums at Night 2013 in Scunthorpe

Museums at Night 2013: The Zusammen Choir Procession in Rochdale

Museums at Night 2013: Venues and visitors reflect on a successful weekend

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