From Saturday 22 April the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull UK City of Culture 2017, presents SKIN, a dramatic exhibition of major works by Lucian Freud, Ron Mueck and Spencer Tunick. Together with highlights from the gallery’s renowned permanent collection, the exhibition explores modern and contemporary artists’ responses to the human figure. SKIN draws out an evolving strength in naked portraits found in the Ferens collection, and enhances them with exceptional loans and a new commission.
For the first time work from one of the UK’s leading sculptors, Ron Mueck, will come to Hull, in partnership with the ARTIST ROOMS collection owned by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland. The scale of Mueck’s striking sculptures invites close physical inspection with nothing escaping the artist’s eye. The exhibition includes the unveiling of a new work Poke (2017), along with loans including Wild Man (2005) and Spooning Couple (2005) from ARTIST ROOMS, and Ghost (1998) from Tate. The sculptures’ careful composition and technical precision examine the vulnerability and intimacy of modern life.
German born British painter, Lucian Freud was one of the world’s greatest realist painters and consistently focused on translating his direct perceptions, however subjective, onto the canvas, resulting in portraits that are frank and psychologically complex. On loan from national partners: four of Freud’s intimate paintings will be show as part of SKIN Two Men (1987-1988), Naked Girl with Egg (1980-1981), Small Naked Portrait (1973-1974) and Large Interior, London W9 (1973), all of which explore the relationship between the artist and his models.
At the centre of the exhibition is Edouard Manet’s historic and ground-breaking preparatory study for Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1862-63). Manet’s painting of a nude woman seated with clothed men scandalised 19th century audiences, creating a turning point in the history of art.
Comparisons between Spencer Tunick and Manet have been drawn in the past, as the issue of public nudity central to the latter’s study, remains a taboo even today. Despite such challenges, Tunick has become famous for organising large-scale nude photo-shoots across the world, having completed over 75 major installations since 1994.
Reflecting the city’s maritime history, the stunning and hugely anticipated images from Spencer Tunick’s Sea of Hull will be shown for the very first time since the commission, which took place on 9 July 2016. Over 3,200 participants from across the world painted their skin with blue body paint and took part in the largest nude installation in the UK to date. In the final site-specific photographs, naked skin often acquires a fluid sculptural form that temporarily transforms the location.
Three of the Sea of Hull photographs from the Gallery’s commission will join the high quality permanent collection as purchases, whilst the Friends of the Ferens will crowd fund to raise money for a fourth work to be chosen by the public.
Councillor Terry Geraghty, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Leisure and Chair of Hull Culture & Leisure, said: 'This bold and ambitious exhibition is one of the gallery’s major highlights for 2017, in addition to the esteemed Turner Prize later this year. The scale and quality of the work on display as part of SKIN reinforces the gallery’s ambition to present new, contemporary work alongside its stunning permanent collection aiming to attract new audiences to the gallery. This exhibition has been possible by working with our established partners across the country by bringing all the work together to form this exciting display of works. We are looking forward to continuing to welcome visitors to the gallery and the city to discover their love for art and enjoy what is on offer.'
Kirsten Simister, Curator of Art at Ferens Art Gallery, said: 'I am always excited about seeing new works brought together on display and we’re really looking forward to the public reaction given the amazing response we had to the Spencer Tunick installation last year. Hopefully we can recreate something of the same sense of excitement.'
'The team have worked incredibly hard to deliver this exhibition and it is fantastic to have seen the idea through from Hull’s bid for City of Culture made four years ago. Now the ambition has become a reality and we hope everyone who visits SKIN will enjoy it.'
Paintings from the art gallery’s rich permanent collection will also be on display as part of the exhibition including Stanley Spencer’s painting of his second wife Nude, Portrait of Patricia Preece (1936-37) and John Coplan’s photographic Self Portrait Upside Down (1992).
The exhibition will be on display at the Ferens Art Gallery between Saturday 22 April and Sunday 13 August 2017. Entry is free and open: Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sunday 11am – 4.30pm. It is also open until 7.30pm every Thursday.