Naked ‘Mr. Big’ Causes a Stir on the Streets of Vienna

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A man walks past an art advertising depicting a nude man, for an exhibition entitled "Naked Man" at the Leopold Museum in Vienna on October 12, 2012.

All of a sudden the streets of Vienna are full of naked men, and it’s making the locals uncomfortable.

They’re not real men, of course, but posters — some of them quite explicit — advertising an upcoming exhibit entitled “Nude Men” at the city’s Leopold Museum. In response to a tradition of exhibitions focused exclusively on the naked female form, the museum’s website explains that “Nude Men” is intended to be “a long overdue exhibition on the diverse and changing depictions of naked men from 1800 to the present.” But, the museum did not foresee the public outcry over the advertising campaign for the exhibit — or over Mr. Big, a mixed-media sculpture of a reclining, completely naked man that stands some 14 feet tall and is positioned directly in front of the museum’s entrance.

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“We didn’t realise that many, many people would be really upset or really angry in a way that we are also afraid about security, about protection of the visitors of the museum” explained Klaus Pokorny, a spokesperson for the museum, as quoted in Reuters. “Many people told us that they wanted to or had to protect their children,” he added about the response to the naked advertisements. “Some had warned that if we won’t cover it they would go there with a brush and they would cover it with color. Already somebody did that.”

The museum has agreed to cover up the genitalia of some of the more publicly exposed men with red strips of paper. This includes posters of a controversial photo taken by Pierre & Gilles called Vive la France, which shows three football players wearing socks in blue, white and red (the French tricolor) and nothing else. “We are not really happy about the situation,” said Mr. Pokorny about the changes. “You always hope that we have made progress, that we are now in the 21st century.”

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The exhibition will open on Friday and will run until Jan. 28, and will consist of 300 works of art which portray “competing ideas of the ideal male model as well as changes in the concept of beauty, body image and values.”