Pink Nude Comes to The Serpentine

The Serpentine, as seen above, runs through Hyde Park, London. It a lovely waterway constructed in 1730 by Queen Caroline, wife of King George II. Yesterday, the weather was sharp. Undeterred by a brisk breeze, a few folks braved the weather to use the green and white striped deck chairs standing at-the-ready should the sun show its face. The English are a hardy lot.

Walking “Rotten Row” (a corruption of Route de Roi’ or King’s Road, formerly the straightest path between St. James and Kensington Palace) I looked up from the horse parade to see both the London Eye and The Shard, London’s newest building in the distance.

Although I’m not much for tourist attractions, I will say with no embarrassment, that I have ridden in the giant ferris wheel (so big that the 32 pods can carry a total of 800 passengers) and found the 360 degree view to be worth the price of admission.

Scheduled for completion in June, The Shard was not without its detractors. UNESCO was worried that the glass spire would compromise the “visual integrity” of the Tower of London. Giles Coren, a columnist for the London Times wrote that the monument paid tribute to “fat-cattism.” Regardless, the building project moved forward and is now at 1,016 ft, the tallest building in Europe. It is also, should you be looking for investment property or perhaps a cosy little place to call home, the most expensive. Spread over 13 floors, ten apartments will be sold for between 30 and 50 million pounds. Pricey! But then again convenience counts: The Shard is supposed to be village-like with businesses, shopping, and entertainment all self-contained. Think of all the money you would save on transport if you lived in The Shard.

I was on my way to the Serpentine Gallery to check out the work of the conceptual artist Hans-Peter Feldmann of Dusseldorf. Apparently, giving into a long-held desire to look in his off-limits Mother’s purse, Feldman had asked women to display the contents of their purses. The purses and their contents were on display in the Serpentine with the owner’s first name, city, and age.

I was quite interested to see the contents of the handbags. I was especially interested to see if the contents varied greatly by age. (They did not.) (My interest in the purse exhibition goes back to when I was in charge of adult literacy at the Fremont Family Center. Some of our clients were prisoners’ wives and one client was the wife of a correctional officer. I thought that it might be a good idea to present the prison guard in an alternative light, so I asked him if one evening he would present a short lesson in self-defense. He agreed. After dinner, the children went off to their teachers, and the parents stayed with me.

The parents sat in a circle. The correctional officer stood in the middle of the circle. He asked me to get my purse and join him in the center. I was quite pleased. He was going to show the women in the group how to best protect their bag from a purse-snatcher. I retrieved my bag and upon entering the circle, the officer told me to turn it upside down and spill the contents on the floor.

I did that and one banana peel, one apple core, a used Kleenex, some spare change, and my driver’s license fell out. Everyone laughed and as the laugher died down, the officer drily asked, “Now I ask you, are the contents of this purse worth fighting for?”

Ah.h.h.h.h. Lesson learned.

So… what did I see? The purse of Stephanie, age 43 – Paris, was surprisingly typical. Stephanie’s purse contained make-up to include eyebrow powder, mascara, several lipsticks, tinted moisturizer and Prada perfume; Kleenex; a BlackBerry; a camera; three anti-acid tablets in a blister pack (five blisters popped); keys; phone cards; credit cards; Euros, a train ticket receipt, a pack of Marlboros, a lighter, sunglasses; a miniature hairbrush; two dress shields still wrapped in plastic; a day-planner; antiseptic hand-gel and a tape measure.

And Stephanie’s bag was typical. No wonder we are all maxed out. Too much STUFF!  

Although all of the newspapers were highlighting the spilled handbag exhibit, I wanted to take another look at Feldmann’s “David.”  I had seen his bigger-than-life nude a couple of years ago in Cologne. You don’t see a lot of pink nudes, and this one had given me a lot to think about. The color of the nude was less pink than Pepto-Bismol but more pink than seaside taffy.

The nude that I had seen in Cologne was not on exhibit, but smaller models stood on plinths. And there were two! “David” was now “Adam” (pink with blond hair on his head and nether-regions) and he looked over at Eve (pink with hussy-red hair, a red drape, and a red apple).

The exhibit did not give me answers. I still have questions. I may have to return to the Serpentine with a friend who is willing to ponder the pink.

One of Feldmann’s exhibits that I liked and understood was one composed of old, family photographs presumably held by the descendents of those pictured. You could not see the faces of the people holding the old family photos, but at the edges of each new photo, you could see the descendents’ fingers holding the old photo. I liked the human link, the touch, between the past and the present. Nice.


Writer’s Prompt:

I have pasted in a photo of Feldmann’s “David” first displayed in 2006.

  • Assume the persona of a critic. Comment on the sculpture.
  • Someone has asked you to discuss the artist’s use of pink. What was Feldmann’s motivation?
  • On a piece of paper taped to the wall, Feldmann had written (by pasting words cut from another text) “Art must have the right to risk bad.” Comment on this quote.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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4 Responses to Pink Nude Comes to The Serpentine

  1. Doris, thank you for this. You are really amazing! I did not know that this funny building was called The Shard and I have to admit ashamedly that I did not know what was going on at the Serpentine Gallery. Could we go there on Tuesday and discuss? I have already some ideas how to interpret the pink. I will tell you in front of the David. H

  2. timeout2 says:

    Could the pink color make us question whether we are as color-blind as we think we are?

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