Sex Sells as NADA New York Becomes the World’s Most Erotic Art Fair

NADA New York gets an X rating this year.

Elizabeth Jaeger, Maybe We Die So the the Love Doesn't Have To, 2015.

There’s plenty of grumbling about art fairs as being boring trade shows, but at NADA New York, you may find yourself hot and bothered by some explicit artworks on offer from New York dealers. (See 8 Great Booths to Check Out at NADA Art Fair).

(We’ve also done our best to make the Frieze fair fun with a video of yours truly—see Brian Boucher Survives Sweaty Dudes, Mazes and Velcro Suits at Frieze New York—which includes a very sexy display of drawings and ceramics at Kate Werble Gallery, courtesy of Ken Tisa.)

Betty Tompkins, at the booth of New York dealer Louis B. James, leads the way with a giant, explicit painting of intercourse and a number of smaller, airbrushed paintings of female genitalia. The artist was inspired to start painting pornography in the 1970s, a gallery staffer told artnet News, by her husband’s pornography collection, and applied the Photorealist style then in vogue to the raunchy material.

Betty Tompkins, Fuck Painting #4, 2004.

Betty Tompkins, Fuck Painting #4, (2004).

The painting of intercourse is created with rubber stamps of words, thus combining figuration and abstraction (since words are nonrepresentational). In this, she said, she was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915-1923), at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she grew up. That work, of course, is an icon of art history that’s all about coitus.

Timothy Hull Kouros in Love 2015 oil on canvas

Timothy Hull, Kouros in Love (2015), oil on canvas. Courtesy Klaus von Nichtssagend, New York.

At Klaus von Nichtssagend, meanwhile, Timothy Hull brings a decorative sensibility to a painting of two Greek statues of young men in profile, one of them visibly aroused. The statues are in the classic Greek form known as the kouros, in which a young man, a classical ideal of beauty, stands with arms at his side and one foot striding forward. He’s doubtless studied one of the world’s great examples, which resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These guys are striped in pastels, and one wears cute pink socks.

The most ambiguous yet sexy artwork we found at the fair is Elizabeth Jaeger’s life-size sculpture of a man and woman, Maybe We Die So the Love Doesn’t Have To (2015), with New York dealer Jack Hanley. Jaeger had a great show at Hanley’s gallery recently, with numerous life-size sculptures of greyhound-like dogs with anxious eyes, their leashes hanging on the floor, seemingly having lost their owners.

In Maybe We Die, a naked man stands behind a crouched woman, who has her hands on the ground; he holds her ankles up, and her back is pressed against his torso. Both wear blissful expressions, it seems at first, though if you study her smile, it seems a bit fixed.

There’s more ambiguity in the title; is the love dying even as the couple appears to be getting it on, even in what can’t be a comfortable position? Is this breakup sex?

That’s not all the sexy art at the fair, even, what with Janice Guy’s 1970s nude self-portraits on offer from Vancouver’s The Apartment, and two men engaged in oral sex in a work by Sam Lipp at Chicago gallery Courtney Blades.

When I mentioned all this to a former New York dealer, she said, “Look around you. Half these dealers are going to be having sex with each other by the time the night is out.”

Who said fairs were no fun?

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