Spencer Tunick stages scenes in which the battle of nature against culture is played out against various backdrops, from civic center to desert sandstorm, man and woman are returned to a preindustrial, pre-everything state of existence. Tunick has traveled the globe to create these still and video images of multiple nude figures in public settings. Organizing groups from a handful of participants to tens of thousands, all volunteers, is often logistically daunting; the subsequent images transcend ordinary categories and meld sculpture and performance in a new genre.
Spencer Tunick’s body of work explores and expands the social, political and legal issues surrounding art in the public sphere. Since 1992, Tunick has been arrested five times while attempting to work outdoors in New York City. Soon after his fifth arrest in Times Square in 1999, determined to create his work on the streets of New York, the artist filed a Federal Civil Rights Law Suit against the city to protect himself and his participants from future arrests. In May 2000, the Second U.S. District Court sided with Tunick, recognizing that his work was protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. On June 3 of the same year, in response to the city’s final appeal made to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the court at large, the U.S. Supreme Court also ruled in favor of Tunick by remanding the case, allowing the lower court decision to stand and the artist to freely organize his work on New York City streets. Four months later, Tunick applied for his first New York City permit after winning the case, and he was rejected.
In order to make his work without the threat of arrest the artist took his work abroad. He has not undertaken a group installation on the streets of New York in ten years.
Tunick’s most notable works have been commissioned by Art Basel, Switzerland (1999), Institut Cultura, Barcelona (2003), XXV Biennial de Sao Paulo, Brazil (2002), The Saatchi Gallery(2003), MOCA Cleveland (2004), Vienna Kunsthalle (2008), among others.
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