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Art gone weird: Australian museum offers nude tour to visitors

A select bunch of visitors to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra will get to experience the art of James Turrell in a new way this week -- entirely au naturel.

art and culture Updated: Mar 31, 2015 13:57 IST
James-Turrell-s-Raemar-pink-white-1969-Shallow-space-construction-fluorescent-light-440-x-1070-x-300-cm-Photo-AFP
James-Turrell-s-Raemar-pink-white-1969-Shallow-space-construction-fluorescent-light-440-x-1070-x-300-cm-Photo-AFP

A select bunch of visitors to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra will get to experience the art of James Turrell in a new way this week -- entirely au naturel.

On April 1 and 2, visitors who bought special tickets earlier in the month to three now-sold-out tours will join Melbourne-based artist Stuart Ringholt in exploring the ongoing exhibition. The requirements: they must be over 18, and they must be nude during the tour, which is followed by a nude reception.

The NGA says Turrell, who creates large-scale, multi-media works concerned with light and space, encouraged the gallery to allow visitors to experience his work in the nude after a similar concept was presented in Japan, also involving Turrell's art.

According to Turrell: "we drink light through the skin as Vitamin D ... so we are literally light eaters. It's part of our diet."

The retrospective, which began December 13 and runs through June 8, covers nearly 50 years of the American artist's work, including his "Projection" pieces, built spaces, holograms, drawings, prints and photographs. Also featured are his "Skyspaces" viewing chambers and a look at Roden Crater, his observatory in Arizona.

Turrell's works have recently been presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Guggenheim in New York -- although none of those exhibitions had a naked tour component.

The leader of those tours in Canberra, Stuart Ringholt, explores personal and social themes such as fear and embarrassment in his artwork, and this will not be his first tour in the nude. His naturist tour series -- itself an ongoing work titled "Preceded by a tour of the show by artist Stuart Ringholt, 6-8pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults only)" -- has been held at Australia's Museum of Contemporary Art, Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art and Melbourne's Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

Opportunities for naked art viewing outside Australia are fewer and further between, but England's Compton Verney gallery had a similar offering in 2007 as part of an exhibition called "The Naked Portrait 1900-2007)," and the Huffington Post, which interviewed Ringholt, said Australia's Leopold Museum and the El Segundo Museum of Art in California have hosted similar programs.

* Find out more about the James Turrell retrospective: www.nga.gov.au/JamesTurrell
* The nude tours are sold out, but you can find out more about them here: nga.gov.au/Calendar/NudeTour/default.cfm