The 10 best alternative male nudes in art history


Ilse Haider, Mr. Big (2013).
Courtesy of the Leopold Museum, Vienna.

Is the male body really that boring? Last week Guardian Art critic Jonathan Jones published his latest in a series of lists plundering art history for page views, « The Top 10 Male Nudes in Art ». Apart from a few inspired tips – a photo by Wolfgang Tillmans, Donatellos David– it’s all very safe and predictable. So here are the 10 better male nudes from artnet News.

Ilse Haider’s Mr. Big (2013): The centerpiece of the Leopold Museum’s controversial « Nude Men » exhibition – whose posters were censored with a Pierre & Gilles image of naked soccer players – became an unlikely and irresistible photo opportunity for visitors outside the Viennese institution.


Karl Ray, Young man (2012).
Courtesy of the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery.

Charles Rays Young man (2012): Although another of Ray’s full-size male nudes met an ignominious end when boy with frog (2008) was removed from his canalside location in Venice, the artist has continued to develop his style of hyper-realistic statuary, most recently with an exhibition of three solid stainless steel figures at Matthew Marks in late 2012. The most impressive of these, naked and bearded Young man, evoked the feeling of stumbling across the “Hipster” display in a museum from the future.


David Altmejd, The Spider Man (2008).
Photo: j-No/Flickr.

David Altmejds The Spider Man (2008): The fast-rising Canadian artist has branched out into prismatic and fragmented mirror boxes full of deconstructed figures and anthropomorphized objects, but his best-known works are still the exploding colossi of the last decade. The partially disassembled Spiderman, with what appears to be part of his nervous system protruding from his torso, is perhaps the most unsettling of this work.


Installation view by Paul McCarthy at SMAK, 2007.
Photo: Lamazone/Flickr.

Most of Paul McCarthy’s work: More often than not, the figures in McCarthy’s sculptures, videos, and labyrinthine installations are either nude or holding butt plugs. For his solo show at SMAK in 2007, he presented two kinetic sculptures of male figures scaling a tree and the ground, and in the adjoining room both castrated and castrated were laid out on tables.

Fernando Botero Abu Graib

Fernando Botero, Abu Ghraib 43 (2005).
Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery.

Fernando Boteros Abu Ghraib Series (2005): The Colombian artist, best known for his sculptures of endearingly curvaceous men, women and animals, tackled an unusually sensitive issue in 2005 when he created a brutal series of paintings and drawings addressing the heinous actions of the US Military officials at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison responded. « They may not be masterpieces, but maybe that doesn’t matter, » he said New York Times‘s Roberta Smith wrote when the Marlborough Gallery showed the works the following year. “They are some of Mr. Botero’s best work, and in an art world where responses to the Iraq war have been rare—literal or obscure—they stand out.

Nan Goldin Joanna Dressing

Nan Goldin, Joana getting dressed after the bath, Sag Harbor, NY (2001).
Courtesy of the artist and the Javier López Gallery.

Here Goldins Joana getting dressed after the bath, Sag Harbor, NY (2001): Nudes of all genders abound in Goldin’s oeuvre, but few are as seemingly innocent and playful as this photograph, which reverses the typical male-female power dynamics from art history.


Ron Muck, dead father (1996-97).
Photo: Lance/Flickr.

Ron Mucks dead father (1996–97): The Australian hyper-realist sculptor knows the male anatomy like few other contemporary artists, but dead father perhaps his most provocative and moving act.


Egon Schiele, Seated male nude (2010).
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Egon Schiele Seated male nude (1910): The Austrian artist painted and sketched more than just skeletonized male nudes, many of them self-portraits, but this work, which Schiele was only 20 years old – 8 years before his death – beautifully articulates the pain and anguish that permeates his entire oeuvre pull through.

Auguste Rodin Bronze Age

August Rodin, The Bronze Age (1875/76).
Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbera/Flickr.

Auguste Rodins The Bronze Age (1875/76): The patriarch of modern sculpture is perhaps best known for another, more thoughtful nude figure –The Thinker– but his Bronze Age personification is by far his most erotic portrayal of a solitary male figure.


Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Study of a Male Nude (1801).
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres Study of a Male Nude (1801): It may be a mere study technically, but this strategically cropped bust of a young man is a testament to the diverse anatomical expertise of an artist best known for painting nude women with very, very long backs.

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