|Monochrome - The Nude|
Mike McNamee ponders the scene for 70 years ahead
Since the beginning of time, the male has gazed longingly at the female
form. When men stop looking at girls we are in deep trouble and the
contemporary generation of children will be the last! This obsession of the
female form is reflected in the auction rooms of London and New York.
Christie's, for example, had an auction in New York devoted to Icons of
Glamour and Style which realised many millions of dollars. Although these
auction houses have specialised sales of many types of artefact and image,
the female form is always popular both in photography and painting. Given
that monochrome is also the overwhelmingly favourite media, it is hardly
surprising that the monochrome, female nude is both popular and commercially
Looking through the November 2008 Christie's sale Photographs shows that 15%
of the sales were of naked or near-naked females. The worth of any image is
based solely on what people are prepared to pay for it. Intrinsically a
photograph is a piece of coated paper. If you were stranded on a desert
island it would have use only by virtue of what you might fold it into – a
cup or a hat perhaps? Why anybody would pay the estimated £2,000 to £3,000
for Manuel Alvarez Bravo's Venus, 1977 is a mystery to me unless it were
because you thought the value would go up, or you wanted additional bragging
rights. Artists and photographers have had a habit over the years of
photographing/painting their current lover and they do not always stand the
test of time! The bidders obviously agreed with me and the lot remained
unsold. Other images did sell quite well. Horst P Horst's Round The Clock 1
went under the hammer for £8,750, almost two grand above the upper estimate.
It was at least an attractive shot of a shapely pair of legs.
All this leads me to ponder how the current crop of nude photographers will
be faring at auction in 2080. Will the work of Faye and Trevor Yerbury or
Damian McGillicuddy eventually start to be knocked down for thousands of
pounds? Many of the images sold at Christie's were the gentlemen's relish of
their day so it is not too fanciful to imagine that a Yerbury or
McGillicuddy will rise to fame in this way. It is interesting to imagine how
some of the material in the auction catalogues would score in competitions
today, I fear they would not do very well. Today's best work is more
polished, more edgy or equally beautiful – the models are certainly prettier
by some way with their toned, gym-fit bodies!
If these images come to auction in 70 years' time how will
the buying public view them and how much will they be prepared to pay for
one? The image above is classical in approach and content although the model
is considerably fitter than in some of the material at auction today. The
image on the right is more enigmatic. The black slave gazing upon the naked
white woman would have caused huge outrage 70 years ago but how might it
puzzle a viewer 70 years hence? Lozie's hair style is a throw back to 70
years ago but what about her second hairstyle? Only time will tell and very
very few of us will be about to remember the monchrome special of 2009!
LEFT: Perfect poise from the model in an image reduced to the essentials of
form and shape.
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