What do you call 60 naked art lovers staring at an exhibit of nude paintings? While an exercise in meta-viewing might be your first instinct, the real answer is one banner day of publicity for Vienna’s Leopold Museum.
As the Associated Press reports, the prestigious gallery offered a special after-hours opportunity for several dozen men to take off their clothes and take in some culture.
“Nude Men from 1800 to Today” (link includes some vibrant examples of this, so be warned) took on a contemporary meaning when the uninhibited patrons gazed upon 300 paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs without the encumbrance of art appreciation-blockers like pants and underwear.
The tour guide, on the other hand, remained fully clothed.
While you would imagine that the spectators would be too busy spectating each other, many found it liberating and the fulfillment of a lifelong impulse to be naked in public.
It was "interesting to stroll through a museum naked," participant Florian Kahlenberg told the wire agency. "I've always wanted to do that.
Nudity is no big deal in Austria, with skinny-dipping along the Danube forming a popular pastime and ads featuring scantily clad men and women peppered liberally around the country.
In fact, Monday’s all-nude extravaganza was inspired by a lone spectator who calmly stripped off his clothes last November and admired Leopold’s impressive collection in the buff. He just as calmly put his clothes back on when asked by a security guard, but the idea appeared to stick in public consciousness.
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"We got requests from all over the world from people who were inspired by the exhibition ... who asked us, 'Can we visit the exhibition naked?'" said museum spokesperson Klaus Pokorny.
Here in North America, the idea of public nudity stirs up our old Victorian reflexes, as reaction to a recent story about an all-male nude yoga class in Edmonton revealed.
So while people start piling on top of each other to make the most immature or homophobic comment, in Europe, where they laugh at our strange squeamishness toward the human body, people get to hang out naked at a museum and that sounds pretty fun.