Seen by women, the nude body is a concrete theme. Jenny Saville, Cecily Brown, Marilyn Minter and Marlene Dumas observe it. They cancelled their potential inhibitions up to the limits of pornography. Each one in her own style, these women provide answers to the tragic question of Diane Arbus on the meaning of life seen through abnormalities and through physical or social deviances.
Jenny Saville is a woman. She therefore can not become a transgender. She imagines another hybridization. She painted in 1993 her self-portrait with the naked body of an obese woman. The belly is rigged of lines mapping for a cosmetic surgery of deflation. Saatchi has included this work entitled Plan in his third exhibition of the Young British Artists in 1994. At the same time Lucian Freud explores the naked obesity of Sue.
Saatchi was closely following the progress of Saville. During the preparation of his Sensation exhibition in 1997, he visited Saville in her studio when the artist was finishing Shift. Saatchi is seduced by this new vision of a monumental stack of nude women proposed by Saville, influenced by the parallel position of the girls in the square composition of the Demoiselles d'Avignon.
The artist tells today about Shift an inspiration derived from the emotional wrapping of the viewer by Rothko within large size paintings. She wanted that this non-narrative accumulation of flesh pushes art to offer to the viewer a tactile sensation and an illusion of smell. Shift also follows the experiences by De Kooning on the expression of a woman's body through an abstract technique.
By bringing in Sensation all the darings of which some can still now be considered as socially unacceptable, Saatchi has restarted an interest of the public in contemporary art while simultaneously promoting 42 Young British Artists including Damien Hirst and Chris Ofili. 300,000 persons visited that exhibition. It is to the credit of the Royal Academy for hosting this event despite the obvious risk of scandal and of violent reaction.
Shift, oil on canvas 330 x 330 cm dated 1996-1997, is estimated £ 1.5M for sale by Sotheby's in London on June 28, lot 25.
SOLD for £ 6.8M including premium