New York City’s Museum of Sex knows how to have fun – as embodied in its primal exhibition, The Sex Lives of Animals. Yet it’s also proven time and again that it can confront more complex sexual matters with a mix of the cerebral and the provocative.
And so it is with its new show The Incomplete Araki: Sex, Life, and Death in the Work of Nobuyoshi Araki. The legendary Japanese photographer (born into the horrors of war in 1940) uses bondage almost as a medium unto itself, exploring the divisions between the public and private, the fictional and the autobiographical. Co-curated by Maggie Mustard, a Riggio Fellow in Art History and expert on Post-War Japanese Photography, alongside Mark Snyder, Director of Exhibitions at the Museum of Sex, more than a thousand prints, polaroids and books weave a narrative on eroticism, fetishization, feminism, even sentimentality – he documented his loving wife of 20 years Yōko’s battle with uterine sarcoma, which took her life in 1990.
Unflinchingly controversial, Araki’s list of admirers is impressive. Indeed, he has photographed Björk and Lady Gaga, as well as shooting campaigns for the likes of Bottega Veneta and Alexander McQueen.
“I want to make photographs that maintain their incompleteness,” he maintains. “I don’t want them to lose their reality, presence, speed, heat, or humidity. Therefore, I stop and shoot before they become refined or sophisticated.”
The show is now open, and will run through August 31.