James Turrell, Virtuality squared 2014, Ganzfeld: built space, LED lights, Collection James Turrell. Image: National Gallery of Australia
American James Turrell plays with light. He’s an artist whose works alter perceptions and the emotions provoked by colour in his own version blue and gold/brown and white dress. And as an artist who studied mathematics and perceptual psychology, he knows how to get under your skin and inside your head.
The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra is currently hosting a retrospective of 50 years of Turrell’s work and will host naked tours of the exhibition in April. While it’s a first for a major Australian gallery – but in terms of naked audience participation, who can forget Spencer Tunick’s 2010 Sydney Opera House photograph, The Base? – visitors to Turrell’s exhibition in Japan also undressed to absorb more of the works.
Perhaps appropriately, the first tour is on April 1, after the gallery’s close, with two more the following day outside opening hours.
Turrell calls humans “light eaters” because “we drink light through the skin as Vitamin D… so we are literally light eaters. It’s part of our diet”.
Australian artist Stuart Ringholt, who explores fear and embarrassment in his own works, is hosting the tours. The experience includes a nude reception following the tour. Best go in the evening when they’re also serving wine.
Over 18 only, the security cameras will still be on – no photos though, except during the first tour – and you’re expected to arrive and leave the gallery with clothes on. You might also be spotted as you walk through the gallery by anyone with their nose pressed against the glass outside, but hopefully, even in Canberra, there’s a law against people like that.
Disrobing in the name of art costs $30, but that’s little more than the $25 entry price anyway ($30 on weekends) and you will certainly be in an intimate group. If you’re keen, book here.
If you’d rather go with gear on, James Turrell: a retrospective is certainly worth it for the spectacular installations, purpose-built for Canberra, which surround and bathe you in light. There’s a limit to the number of visitors to the exhibition, so make sure you book. For details, check the National Gallery of Australia website.
The Turrell exhibition continues until June 8.
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