That’s what I was being promised
anyways. I didn’t believe it, not at first. But then the small
fliers turned into substantial posters, posters with actual pictures,
pictures with actual anatomy. Eventually during a stroll downtown
through the Museum Quarter I ran up against a larger than life,
literally in-my-face cutout of a buck-naked guy sprawled out in all
his glory. Then I believed.
My time in Austria was intended to be family oriented and home based. I have some extremely good friends who had just moved to Vienna only to learn they were pregnant for the first time. Being the good unemployed vagabond that I am, I volunteered to keep the soon-to-be momma company and support her through the relocation and initial rounds of doctor visits. Being the good friends that they are, they pretended to want me to join them during this stressful time and kept smiles on their faces while I tried cooking vegetarian, added to their dirty clothes piles and struck up potential fist-fights with their new neighbors.
But I digress. Where was I headed? Oh yeah, naked men. So as I’m scouring the suburban grocery stores of Vienna and avoiding the apartment complex’s laundry room I would regularly spot this poster plastered on a wall or a pillar or the side of a truck. Definitely eye-catching, yes? Not being able to read German, all I could discern from this display was that some sort of activity was going to take place (from the presentation style I assumed a sporting event) and that even in the Austrian winter, clothes were optional.
Very keen on learning more about this unexpected aspect of Austrian culture (I apparently had been wrong to expect a Viennese formality) I did a bit of internet research and discovered that the posters were not actually advertizing for a nudist football league, but rather for a gallery exhibit at a world class museum, the Leopold. Apparently a creative curator had the idea of turning the gender tables on artistic representations of nudes, designing an exhibit that intended to display the history of the unclothed male within the art world. Semi-disappointed but still intrigued I vowed to keep the opening dates on my mental calendar. Wouldn’t want to pass up an educational opportunity.
Just in case the plethora of penis posters wasn’t encouraging enough, the museum decided to dedicate space in its front courtyard to a billboard sized representation of one of the (ahem!) artifacts from within. Here is said billboard. This particular Sunday the courtyard was quite full of families, food stalls and tour groups all in various stages of gawking…..or just hanging out. It was a true mix of attention spans. The kids seemed the least phased and were perfectly happy playing in the display’s nooks and crannies.
By the time the exhibit’s opening day arrived I had managed to convince one of my friends, the heavily pregnant one, to join me in exploring. In an effort to not appear too eager we wound out way through other rooms first, but our hearts weren’t into it. So we gave up the ghost and proceeded to the featured exhibit, tucked discretely (?) in the museum’s basement. As we approached the entryway to the displays our hearts raced, our pupils dilated, we giggled like schoolgirls, we walked through the doorway and were greeted by…..
…..ancient Egyptian and Roman statues...Huh.
…..paintings of artists….painting. (sigh)
…..rather plump satyrs hovering over drunken Greek gods (who were not such fine specimens themselves) Harumph.
Where were the sprawling men? Where were the hot bodies?? What happened to the naked footballers??? Was this really going to be an academic introspective after all? FALSE ADVERTIZING!!!!!!
Well, that was sadly, my initial reaction. The hoped for lasciviousness did not materialize. There was a brief glimmer around the Mapplethorpe photos, but then we were at the exit.
I have to admit that once I got over my initial disenchantment, I really did see some interesting pieces. And once my libido was put in check my eyeballs were much more receptive to the art being presented. I can’t say I understood all of it, such as this piece here….but then, I didn’t exactly plan on attaining enlightenment during this visit.