Art after #METOO

Art after #METOO

by marlies|dekkers

When Wim Pijbes became the Rijksmuseum’s director in 2008 (the most prestigious museum of The Netherlands), the first acquisition he made was my feminine feminist ‘Bare Bottom Dress’, comparing it with Mondriaan’s paintings and Rietveld’s iconic chair. A bold move, and typical for the dapper art historian with the rebellious streak who made the world news by breaking protocol and shaking hands with Barack Obama in front of Rembrandt’s Night Watch. As soon as the #MeToo movement hit the art world, I couldn’t wait to sit down with Wim and talk about the consequences of this historical event. “It all goes back to Eve picking the apple.”

Marlies: Wim, how do you see #MeToo’s effect on the art world?

Wim: There are many different sides to it. The #MeToo discussion itself seems to center around events that have come to light during the past year and a half. I think we can all agree: many unacceptable things have happened, also in the art world. At the same time, as an art historian, I observe that from the beginning of our visual language there has been a power dynamic between the artist and his subject, most often a woman. The #MeToo discussion has greatly influenced the way we assess this dynamic, and the question is: does that change the way we see famous works of art like the Venus de Milo or Manet’s ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’? I think the recent controversy around Balthus’ painting from 1938 called ‘Thérèse Dreaming’ really shows that shift of awareness.

Marlies: Yes, Balthus portrayed a pubescent girl – leaning back on a chair with her underwear visible – with a sensuality that is now considered very inappropriate. There was even a petition for removal from the Met!

Wim: It’s a perfect example of a redefinition of boundaries. What is socially and culturally acceptable? Well, that is constantly changing. And even though the Met decided to keep the painting on display, the outrage surrounding the incident really shows the power of the image: it’s a universal language with a direct impact, loaded with content and meaning. It’s why the image has been feared by political leaders throughout the ages.

Marlies: And throughout the ages, through images, women have been objectified. It seems that the image of the woman as an object of desire became so engrained in our society, that we started behaving that way. If a woman is an object, surely a man can touch her ass whenever he likes? The #MeToo movement is definitely challenging that.

Wim: Luckily, yes! In his book ‘Ways of Seeing’, John Berger wrote that a woman is almost continually accompanied by the image someone else may have of her. She is conditioned to see herself that way. Men look at women; women watch themselves being looked at. That is because we have a visual tradition, in our Western culture at least, that goes all the way back to the moment Eve picked that forbidden apple.

Marlies: One of the greatest acts of heroism!

Wim: Eve convinces Adam to take a bite, God punishes them by making them feel shameful, and from then on, Eve is Adam’s subordinate. And that is how women became depicted in our art: as always being aware of their guilt, as always being aware of being observed. And Adam? Adam merely looks perplexed at having been thrown out of Paradise. Try this little experiment for yourself: think of any famous female nude painting, Titian’s Venus of Urbino for example, and replace the woman with a man. The challenge is to imagine the man with exactly the same expression. And you know what? You can’t! In other words, a female nude has a different meaning, a priori, from a male nude. And it is so hard for women to free themselves from that objectification that we needed a disruptive event such as #MeToo to shake things up.

Marlies: We are basically addressing 3 different types of issues within art: the objectification of women in images, the violation of women during the process of making these images, and the artist who has shown transgressive behavior in his private life (but who might not have expressed that in his art, because he paints only landscapes, for example). How far do you go, as a museum, in showing your disapproval? Would you destroy art?

Wim: Destroy, no. Banning a piece of art to the depot, yes, eventually. In the political domain, we have created a system of morals and values that gives everybody the freedom to have their own opinion. When we talk about art from a different era, by artists who have perhaps already passed away, who are we to impose our current morals and values on those works of art?

Marlies: We are children of our Zeitgeist.

Wim: That is exactly the reason I want to be extra careful. If I get rid of art now – burn books, destroy paintings – how will people look at that in 30 or 40 years, when there is perhaps a whole new set of morals and values? You know, Marlies, I am imagining that I’m in a museum, standing right in front of Boticelli’s Birth of Venus: a completely naked woman, depicted by Boticelli as fully aware of the fact that she is being watched by people, by men. Yes, she is a lust object. Granted. But what if there was a sign right next to the painting, explaining that this is one of the icons of Western art, signaling the birth of the Renaissance, when God was no longer central, but man, symbolized by a woman in this case? Hopefully that will be one of the achievements of the #MeToo movement in art: that a large audience will be able to have a discussion about such things, in all freedom.

Marlies: And what will you do to achieve that?

Wim: The thing is, I can’t do it alone. We will have to work on this together, men and women; it has to come from 2 sides. And we will have to be persistent, like bamboo: bending slowly, but very steadily, till we get there.

Marlies: I’m with you, Wim. Thank you very much.

Most loved
Governed by NO ONE

Marlies Says

Governed by NO ONE

by marlies|dekkers

Flame-haired, brave-hearted and always dressed to dazzle, Elizabeth the First, also known as England’s ‘Virgin Queen’, is one of the most unforgettable women in history. Her glorious reign is known as The Golden Age ~ a period that saw the birth of Shakespeare, the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the emergence of England as a world power. It lasted almost 45 years; Elizabeth’s legacy as a feminist icon however, has already spanned nearly 5 centuries. “My sex cannot diminish my prestige.”

Quiet Power

Blog

Quiet Power

by marlies|dekkers

Only 11 days after he beheaded his second wife (the flamboyant Anne Boleyn), King Henry VIII married a pale, fair-haired maiden called Jane Seymour. Who exactly was this girl, and what had made the king so besotted with her? To this day, historians don’t quite know what to make of her.

Glamour, the magical power of persuasion

Marlies Says

Glamour, the magical power of persuasion

by marlies|dekkers
This season, more is more as glamour is back with a glittery vengeance. But was it ever really away? Not for me! From Marlene Dietrich in a top hat to Beyoncé shaking her booty in glittery thigh-high boots; to me, glamour is timeless and has many faces. It is the magical dust that gives everyday life that golden sparkle. More importantly, when used well, glamour can actually change your life. It has definitely shaped mine…

“Dare to be the CEO of your own career”

MD Friends

“Dare to be the CEO of your own career”

by marlies|dekkers

Who run this (digital) world? For Saskia Van Uffelen, the answer to that question is crystal clear: women. And what better role model for these women than the passionate CEO of Ericsson Belux herself? Named ICT Woman of the Year in 2011, Belgian-born Saskia is a great inspiration -not only as a digital visionary but also as a top manager who gracefully combines a hectic job with a family of five children. “In disruptive times, we need women.”

marlies|dekkers lingerie

Marlies|dekkers heeft een grote variëteit aan lingerie wat gedragen kan worden door iedereen en voldoet aan iedere vrouw haar behoefte. Naast het aanbieden van producten op onze webshop, houden we een blog bij in de categorie ‘Maison Marlies’ waar over verschillende onderwerpen geschreven wordt zoals; Waarom 50 worden fantastisch is, een 5-stappenplan voor het kopen van lingerie voor jouw vriendin, vrouw of partner , hoe je lingerie als deel van je outfit maakt en andere leuke onderwerpen.

Maison Marlies

In Maison Marlies blog kun je van alles lezen over het leven achter en rondom het bedrijf. Of je nu wilt weten waar ze haar inspiratie vandaan haalt voor het ontwerpen van een nieuwe collectie, of dat je interesse hebt in haar levensstijl, gezonde recepten, of haar smaak in bijzondere kunst, je kunt het vinden in de blog. Deze zakenvrouw krijgt het voor elkaar om met een knipoog te schrijven over haar zakenreizen, shop avonturen, haar collega’s, vrienden en familie en zelfs over haar vakanties waar ze even helemaal tot rust komt. Wanneer je even niet meer weet hoe je jou goede bh maat kunt vinden, biedt Maison Marlies een aantal richtlijnen zodat je je boezem kunt schudden zonder dat je borsten eruit floepen. Comfort voor je buste is een combinatie van de juiste maat en de juiste kwaliteit. Je wilt toch geen onhandig ondergoed, terwijl dit eigenlijk heel makkelijk voorkomen kan worden door het dragen van hoge kwaliteit lingerie?! En wanneer je voorgevel goed op z’n plaats gehouden wordt kun je eindelijk volledig je vrouwelijkheid vieren. De blog geeft advies over het mixen en matchen van lingerie, over het stimuleren en inspireren van je eigen stijlgevoel en houdt je op de hoogte van de laatste trends.

blij met marlies|dekkers lingerie

Haar celebrity vrienden zijn ook erg blij met de perfecte pasvorm van de bh's van marlies|dekkers. Deze vriendinnen laten met trots hun sexy lingerie van marlies|dekkers zien in fotoshoots voor tijdschriften, en tijdens optredens, tv-shows of zelfs in films. Maison Marlies wijdt een speciaal gedeelte van de blog aan gerelateerde nieuwtjes en ontwikkelingen zodat je altijd op de hoogte blijft van de laatste ontwikkelingen rondom de speciale missie die de visie van Marlies’ ademt voor de toekomst.