Visitors attending the grand opening of a museum wing in Austria last week were greeted with something more than the usual wine-and-cheese celebration. As people walked through the halls, they witnessed a silent, choreographed performance by 45 female models, all naked except for boots.
With the opening of its new Kunsthalle Wien building, the Museumsquartier in Vienna now becomes the world’s largest museum and art complex in a country that boasts more museums per capita than any other nation. The museum clearly has money to burn on parties: It hired the services of New York artist Vanessa Beecroft to come up with something distinctive for an opening gala.
That she did. She had the museum run a classified ad seeking slim women between the ages of 18 and 35, and between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall, who were not shy about having museum-goers ogle their naked bodies. The professional and amateur models agreeing to the bizarre gig were paid about $200 each.
Beecroft’s idea was to demonstrate the contrast between standardized beauty and the body’s individuality, and this example of an arranged living sculpture was supposed to depersonalize the female form into a visual spectacle — sort of like a woman walking past a construction site. Inside a hall heated to fight the bitter February cold, Beecroft positioned her boot-clad nudies in various poses for three hours. As time elapsed, the idea was that the models would lose their uniformity, get tired, and then begin to show their individual personalities. And as we know, models have extremely interesting personalities.
“The philosophy of the museum is to be an art factory,” museum press director Thomas Soraperra told ABC News. “That’s just one piece of art.”