Perversion in Art  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
perversion, modern art

"Perversion in Art"[1] (2002) is an essay by Donald Kuspit published on artnet which argued that there is an intimate connection between sexual deviancy and the history of modern art.

Opening citations

Kuspit opens his article by citing from these works: Creativity and Perversion (1985) by Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred (1975) by Robert Stoller, Civilisation: Utopia and Tragedy (1990) by George Frankl, Evil in the Value System of Art (1933) by Hermann Broch, "Thoughts On Kitsch" (1951) by Wilhelm Worringer and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) by Freud (twice):

It is usual for most normal people to linger to some extent over the intermediate aim of looking that has a sexual tinge to it; indeed, this offers them a possibility of directing some proportion of their libido on to higher artistic aims. On the other hand, this pleasure in looking [scopophilia] becomes a perversion (a) if it is restricted exclusively to the genitals, or (b) if it is connected with the overriding of disgust (as in the case of voyeurs or people who look at excretory functions), or (c) if, instead of being preparatory to the normal sexual aim, it supplants it.
The most common and the most significant of all the perversions -- the desire to inflict pain upon the sexual object, and its reverse -- received from Kraft-Ebbing the names of "Sadism" and "Masochism" for its active and passive forms respectively.


"Beginning with Manet's Olympia, 1863 (for many the seminal modern picture) and jumping to Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 (another "breakthough"), and then to the dolls that Hans Bellmer made in the 1930s and the somewhat different looking but equally perverse dolls that appear in Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills, 1979 -- her later grotesquely dismembered dolls are explicitly Bellmeresque, especially when they are composites of fragments that don't add up to a complete body -- and throwing in Egon Schiele's nudes, Balthus's adolescent girls, Piero Manzoni's canned shit, and Gilbert and George's shit cookies (many other works can be mentioned), one realizes that many of the masterpieces of modern art depend on perversion to make their dramatic point." --Donald Kuspit

Dutch translation:

“Als we beginnen met Manet’s Olympia in 1863 (voor velen de kiem van de moderne schilderkunst), en we springen naar Les Demoiselles d'Avignon van Picasso in 1907 (nog een "doorbraak"), vervolgens naar de poppen die Hans Bellmer maakte in de jaren 1930 en de enigszins anders ogende, maar even perverse poppen die het voorwerp uitmaken van Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills in 1979 - haar latere grotesk uiteengereten poppen zijn expliciet Bellmeresk, vooral wanneer ze samengestelde fragmenten zijn die zich niet laten optellen tot een compleet lichaam – en we gooien er Egon Schiele’s naakten bij, de adolescente meisjes van Balthus, de ingeblikte stront van Piero Manzoni, en Gilbert en George's “shit cookies” (vele andere werken kunnen worden genoemd), realiseert men zich dat vele van de meesterwerken van de moderne kunst steunen op perversiteit om hun dramatische punt te maken.” --J. W. Geerinck

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