Nudity been a big deal in art and expression for millennia, as evidenced by its prominence among the world’s most famous and priceless works. Nudity has been also weirdly controversial, to one degree or another, for almost as long. (Rumor has it there is a room in the Vatican full of all the penises removed from statues since the mid-16th century.)
It’s one thing to take in a marble wang or a Rubenesque female body in the context of a museum, but you may question whether (or how) to display similar art in your own home. Is it gauche? Is it offensive? Is it just weird? Here’s what you need to know before mounting that Mapplethorpe print.
Naked art is fairly socially accepted
Nude art is common at even the most basic art gallery, so you shouldn’t worry that your interest in displaying a little of it in your own home is pervy—or that other people will think it is. Instagram, notorious for its censorious attacks on backsides and female nipples, makes allowances in its otherwise-strict anti-nudity policy for works of art. Per the company’s terms of service, “For a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks…Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK.”
That even the most puritanical and buttoned-up of social media sites allows the presentation of naked art should give you a sense of how accepted such paintings and sculptures are, broadly. But if they’re not inherently offensive, you do need to use your judgment when displaying art around your home. There’s a difference, if only subtextually and culturally, between The Birth of Venus and an old full-frontal Playboy poster. You’re definitely allowed to have either one displayed in your own home, but they convey different messages.
How to display nude art tastefully
According to Art Provocateur, decorating with nude art isn’t that much different than decorating with any other kind of art: “The goal and focus are to place pieces in an order of structure and color that is pleasing and inviting. When choosing to decorate with nude art pieces, one must keep in mind the color and tone they are seeking for their environment.”
What does this mean for you? No nudity for nudity’s sake. It might get a rise out of guests when they enter your home, but you shouldn’t be decorating entirely for shock value. If you have a piece you really like, work other elements of the room into its color scheme or general vibe so it doesn’t stand out so much. Conversely, if your room is already decorated but you want to add some nakedness, seek out work that goes with your existing flow. Slapping a balls-out statue onto your coffee table won’t accomplish much outside of serving as a distraction unless it jibes with the room as a whole.
When to more carefully curate your collection
Consider your audience before someone comes over. If your conservative aunt is on the way or you’re hosting one of your kid’s friends’ parents for a first-time playdate, use your best judgment about whether they’ll want to see any granite dongs or vintage porno posters, and whether such art sends a message you’re interested in sending. In some instances, it might be better to stash it away.
In other instances, there’s no maybe about it: stick it in the closet, away from prying eyes. Per Apartment Therapy, when trying to sell your home, you should hide anything that could possibly be deemed offensive. Your busty bust might be rare, expensive, and high-class, but if it turns off someone who otherwise might be willing to buy your house, it won’t be worth it. Whether they get your artistic choices or not is irrelevant when you’re trying to convince them to give you a lot of money.