Breasts in all Their Forms take Centre Stage in Palazzo Franchetti, Venice

Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Breasts in all Their Forms take Centre Stage in Palazzo Franchetti, Venice

Breasts, an exhibition during the Venice Biennale 2024, at ACP Palazzo Franchetti. Breasts showcases the diverse works of more than thirty emerging and established artists from around the world, spanning the realms of painting, sculpture, photography, and film from 1500 until modern day.

Works in the exhibition explore how breasts have been understood and represented in art across cultures and traditions. Reflecting on a range of themes from motherhood, empowerment, sexuality, body image and illness, the presentation investigates how breasts act as a catalyst to discuss socio-political realities, challenge historical traditions and express personal and collective identities. The mission is to promote awareness of breast cancer to a broader public through the channel of art. 
Breasts will be comprised of five distinct rooms as well as an immersive and site-specific entryway designed by Studio Buchanan. The first room examines the historical representation of breasts and the construction of narratives related to the female body, showcasing how modern and contemporary artists have intervened in these established precedents. The focus of this exploration is the Old Masters of the Renaissance, specifically examining the iconography of the Madonna del Latte (Madonna Breastfeeding the Child). This iconic portrayal not only influenced Cindy Sherman's 'History Portraits' but also highlights how contemporary artists like Richard Dupont, Teniqua Clementine Crawford, and Sherrie Levine incorporate Renaissance elements into their figurative paintings. 
In the second room, Pasti explores breasts as an inspiration for sculptural practices. The space features a mixed-media artwork by Marcel Duchamp, Prière de toucher (Please Touch), which presents a foam-rubber breast affixed to the cover of the book 'Le Surréalisme en 1947’. Claude Lalanne’s wearable breastplate will also be showcased and function as a fashion item, alongside Allen Jones’s mannequin that evokes historical precedents such as armour and religious vestments. Prune Nourry, who is a breast cancer survivor will present a sculpture of a breast made of Venetian glass and bronze.
Through the lens of photography, the third room examines the impact of digital media on the representation of breasts. The Surrealist photography of Robert Mapplethorpe and Irving Penn explores unconventional and symbolic representations of the body, moving beyond traditional and literal depictions. Instead, they employ dreamlike, symbolic, or abstract elements to evoke subconscious emotions. Breasts were sometimes portrayed as mysterious landscapes or abstract forms, detached from their usual context. The intention was to evoke a sense of wonder, desire, or discomfort, prompting viewers to question conventional perceptions of the human body and sexuality. 

The third room also showcases how breasts have been employed as a commercial device in marketing and advertising, with sex appeal emerging as a common tactic to promote products. This room delves into how fashion photographers, including Oliviero Toscani, have challenged and subverted the conventional role of advertising, intentionally making the viewer feel uncomfortable or confused. Hsu Che-yu's work blurs the boundary between reality and the digital realm, with a subtle reference to the pervasive nature of pornography. 

The fourth room features artists who fragment, abstract, and deconstruct breasts in their art, establishing connections with consumer culture, materialism, and contemporary society. Two distinctive themes become evident in this space. Playfulness emerges as a distinct theme, challenging the male gaze and reclaiming agency. By infusing a sense of humour, artists challenge rigid notions surrounding the female form, disrupting conventional ideals, which leads to a broader conversation about body positivity and self-acceptance. Artists including Chloe Wise, Sarah Lucas, Louise Bourgeois and Aurora Pellizzi contribute to a conversation about identity, consumer culture, and the evolving representation of breasts in art. 

A film by Laure Prouvost entitled Four For See Beauties will be shown in the fifth room. Shot in 2022, the fifteen minute-film depicts three women and the artist’s newborn child alongside an array of sea creatures recalling the stages of human life transformation.

Exhibition date :Breasts 19 April - 24 November, Plazzo Franchetti Venice

Main Image :Charlotte Colbert, Mastectomy Mameria, Plaster, 2019 © the artist and Popcorn Group LTD

Stephanie Cime

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Image of the Day

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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