National Gallery of Australia launches its first ever naked art tour

Karla Cripps, CNNUpdated 27th March 2015
(CNN) — Imagine this scene.
You're checking out an exhibition by a well-known American artist, admiring his life's work in a dazzling retrospective that's earning rave reviews from critics.
You look down.
Suddenly, you regret skipping that last waxing appointment -- you're completely naked.
You look around the room and see that everyone else viewing the exhibition is also nude -- some likely wishing the room wasn't so cold.
It's a situation 100 uninhibited art fans taking part in the National Gallery of Australia's first ever naked art tour will soon find themselves in as they view the Canberra venue's current exhibition, "James Turrell: A Retrospective."
The retrospective highlights the 70-year-old American light artist's 50 years of work and includes installations purpose-built for Canberra, as well as drawings, prints and photographs.
Being nude isn't a prerequisite to viewing the show as the naked tours are taking place after hours on three days only -- April 1-2 -- and only open to those 18 and older.
No need to bother building up the courage to strip down for this one. Both of the tours, each of which welcomes 50 guests, are already fully booked, says the museum.

"The nude is really important to art history"

An installation from James Turrell's Ganzfeld collection. The artist is famed for his use of light and space.
An installation from James Turrell's Ganzfeld collection. The artist is famed for his use of light and space.
Courtesy National Gallery of Australia
When visiting Canberra last year, Turrell reportedly encouraged the gallery to allow visitors to experience his works naked, as was previously done in Japan.
"We drink light through the skin as Vitamin D ... so we are literally light eaters," said Turrell. "It's part of our diet."
The naked tours are a collaboration with Melbourne-based artist Stuart Ringholt, who has led similar experiences at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art and Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art.
Ringholt's work often explores personal and social themes such as fear and embarrassment through absurd situations or amateur self-help environments -- including nude gallery tours.
"It seems absurd to bring a bunch of beautifully dressed people into the gallery when we can bring in a bunch of nude people," said Ringholt in an interview with the Canberra Times.
"We seem to forget the nude is really important to art history. The museum in itself is reductive -- we have the idea of the white cube but why have we then reduced the viewer through their clothing?"
In addition to Japan and Australia, other galleries around the world have hosted similar tours.
In 2013, Vienna, Austria's Leopold museum offered a special after-hours showing of its "Nude Men From 1800 to the Present Day" exhibit, which welcomed more than 60 naked art lovers.