In Which Naked Men Are Not Actually My Favorite Thing About a Museum

So, we are making up a bucket list of Stuff We Want To Do For The Six Months That The Weather Is Disgusting in Vienna. It includes a bunch of museums because they have art, which my husband likes, and they are indoors and warm, which I like. (Actually, I like art too, but I like being warm and dry even more!)

Last weekend, I brightly suggested that we go to the museum that has been advertising a Nude Men exhibition all over town. My husband rolled his eyes and agreed to accompany me because he hadn’t been to the Leopold yet. And, he pointed out, he has probably seen a lot more naked guys in his time than I have, so no biggie.

As it turned out, Näckte Männer was just so-so. I had heard that the concept was something along the lines of: there are naked women in fine art all the time, why can’t we portray the beauty of the male form in the same way? Heck, I was all for that. So were a lot of other people: the exhibition was very crowded, with both straight and gay couples. There were even families with young children in tow. This is Europe, after all. I just hope those parents had a cheat sheet prepared for the of the inevitable questions!

Unfortunately, this exhibition was a bit self-conscious, for lack of a better word. There were some good pieces (so to speak) but most of the artwork seemed to be making fun of men. In short, there were really a lot of deliberately very ugly, or cartoonish nudes. Not portrayed sympathetically, like Lautrec’s ugly, aging prostitutes, for example. And, I won’t get into it,  but there were a couple of pieces that you definitely wouldn’t see with an exhibition of female nudes and I didn’t think belonged in this kind of museum. I’m just saying.

Interestingly, the older artworks displayed a more sincere appreciation of male anatomy. Which leads to the question: if male artists in earlier times (gay and straight) felt perfectly comfortable drawing, painting and sculpting beautiful men, what changed? Why do modern works depicting men have to be either ugly or blatantly sexual? What happened to just appreciating human anatomy as a work of art?

Laying such weighty questions aside, we very much enjoyed the rest of the exhibits.I had been to the Leopold when we first came to Vienna. I liked it then, and I like it even more now.

There is a nice collection of works by Egon Schiele, an artist that I had never heard of before coming here. He was a weird dude who died tragically young (in the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic), but I quite like his work, especially the landscapes.

Also, some Japanese prints and watercolors that are pretty eye-popping even though they aren’t my usual thing. And some miscellaneous Secession-era and Wiener Werkstatte stuff, which is always easy on the eyes. Then the inevitable Klimt, but they have to include him or the tourists won’t pay to visit, sigh.

Another nice thing about the Leopold: they let you take photos. So, please to enjoy a few pictures from our visit. Next week: the Museum of Art Fakes?

Please note: for some reason my photo captions do not show up in Google Reader.  So, if you are viewing this post in Reader, click the post title, above, to open the full version and then you can see the captions.


  1. I´ve already heard of women giggling during the whole visit of the naked men exhibition… I will go to see the show as soon as possible. In Linz, at the Lentos, there´s another exhibition on the same subject, but with more contemporary artwork. I want to see this one too.


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