Touring in the Nude

A recommendation, some make, for those who are nervous to speak publically, is to imagine everyone in the audience is nude. However, few of us actually ever find out how this really feels. Last fall, one of the docents on the National Docent Symposium Council (NDSC) had the opportunity to do just this when The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presented the exhibition Focus: Perfection Robert Mapplethrope.

The exhibit notes describe him as "One of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) gained renown for his masterful compositions and subjects that have compelled new reflection on questions of gender, race and sexuality." There were close to 300 of his photographs in the exhibition and it was very popular with the public. The exhibit concentrated on the genres of portraiture, the nude and still life.

In association with the LGBT community of Montreal, a nude tour was organized for 100 visitors. The objective was to eliminate the difference between the individuals during their visit of the Mapplethorpe exhibit where sensitive and shocking subjects were presented. Docents were asked to lead tours.

Our docent from the NDSC, who led the a tour of twenty nude men, said: "When I started talking, I completely forgot they were nude. They were attentive, no remarks on the nudity issue, and were very respectful as if they were all dressed. It was the same for all the five docents."

This writer was worried about one thing. Montreal is in Canada, the fall can be chilly, and museums are chilly, so what about being cold? It turns out there was a wine reception before the tours where everyone was dressed and the heat was turned up a bit so no discomfort was voiced.

This seems to demonstrate that guides/docents are ready and adept to lead groups of all kinds. As usual, the most important focus of the docent is on the art and the engagement of our visitors with the art.

By Kristen Keirsey, NDSC Director and PR Committee Chair

Photo courtesy of The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. From the exhibition Focus: Perfection Robert Mapplethrope.




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