A Map of Manet Memes:
The nudity no longer shocks us, nor the flat tonalities that offended French taste back in the day. So just what is it about these 150-year-old women–Olympia, the defiant prostitute attended by a black maid and a black cat, and her counterparts in Déjeuner, the nude and nearly nude women lunching in the grass with two dressed male dandies—that continues to confound and provoke?
“Gender, race. Questions about what exactly is modern and contemporary art. The relation of the present to art history and the past. These are all hot issues,” says Carol Armstrong, the art-history professor who instigated the 150th-birthday party for the paintings.
With Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art, Armstrong has assembled artistic and pop-culture riffs on Olympia and Déjeuner for “Lunch with Olympia,” a raucous romp through art history at the art school’s 32 Edgewood Avenue Gallery.
The subplot is the way the two paintings evolved in status from laughingstock to icon to politically incorrect.
These days it’s rare to see a version of Olympia or Déjeuner featuring its original cast. There are male Olympias, black lunchers, and a piece that hits all the buttons, by Lyle Ashton Harris.
It’s a copy of an Adidas ad featuring soccer star Zinedine Zidane, who reclines on a table in the company of a black masseuse. Its sexual and racial dynamic reminded him of Olympia. So he turned it into an artwork and called it Ready-made.
(From Top): Polixeni Papapetrou, Miles from Nowhere, 2008, pigment ink print, Edition 4/6. COURTESY OF JENKINS JOHNSON GALLERY AND THE ARTIST. Joel-Peter Witkin, Olympia, 1974, gelatin silver print. © JOEL-PETER WITKIN COURTESY CATHERINE EDELMAN GALLERY, CHICAGO. Lyle Ashton Harris, Ready-Made, 2001, pigment print on kozo paper, Edition 3/10. COLLECTION OF LEYDEN YNOBE LEWIS. Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1867, etching and aquatint. COURTESY YALE UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY, EVERETT V. MEEKS, B.A. 1901 FUND. T. Venkanna, From Back, August 27,1989, etching. COURTESY GALLERY MASKARA, MUMBAI. Agnes Thurnauer, Olympia #2, 2012, acrylic on canvas. COURTESY THE ARTIST AND SILVERMAN ART PROJECTS, LONDON.
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