The Met is turning over a new leaf with Naked Before the Camera, a racy exhibit of nude photography for the notoriously tasteful institution. Tucked away in the tiny Howard Gilman Gallery of vintage photography, a lighted marquee hanging above the entrance spells the word “Naked,” as if to suggest you’re about to be treated to a peep show. Inside are some 70 photographic nudes selected from the Met’s collections and organized thematically by curator Malcolm Daniel. Naked begins with 19th-century academic studies before moving on to ethnographic and forensic experiments, ending with contemporary images in which the nude is more overtly used for artistic or sexual expression.
By the Met’s standards, Naked is a peep show, though more demure than you might expect from the flashy lights at the entrance. The show’s main purpose is to educate rather than titillate (this is the Met, after all). There’s some erotica, including an image from Larry Clark’s Teenage Lust series and another by Jim Jager that was published in a porn magazine. You might even blush over the tame mid-19th-century nudes (they, too, were once considered erotica). Naked demonstrates how nude photography and eroticism have been linked since the advent of the medium, in part because of the ever-present voyeur. From curvy porcelain-skinned female nudes to musculature studies and pinups, see selections from the exhibit.