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News release - Issued by York Art Gallery

Flesh: A major new exhibition at York Art Gallery

September 23 – March 19 2017

A major new exhibition entitled Flesh, featuring works by Degas, Chardin, Francis Bacon and Sarah Lucas, will open at York Art Gallery this September.
The exhibition includes more than 60 works of art displayed over three galleries showing how flesh has been portrayed by artists over the last 600 years.
Human and animal, alive and dead, familiar and strange; the exhibition will examine the ways artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Circle of Rembrandt, Auguste Rodin and William Etty respond to flesh, alongside modern and contemporary works by Bruce Nauman, Ron Mueck, Jenny Saville, and Jo Spence.
The major exhibition features loans from across the country which complement works from York Art Gallery’s own collection, including new acquisitions made possible through Art Fund’s RENEW scheme, the Contemporary Art Society and Friends of York Art Gallery.

Laura Turner, senior curator of art and science, said: “Flesh is a word that immediately provokes a reaction – it is no surprise that artists have always drawn on this tactile, organic and changeable material for inspiration.
“This exhibition brings together some of the biggest names in art as well as exciting emerging artists who all interpret flesh in different ways. From still life paintings and anatomical studies to abstract sculpture and contemporary film, Flesh presents a series of visual encounters which surprise and challenge, raising questions about the body and ageing, race and gender, touch and texture and surface and skin.”

The exhibition consists of five rooms in the three galleries on the ground floor. These will be themed Figuring Flesh, Still Life, Materiality and Surface.
Figuring Flesh will look at what it means to figure flesh and does it always relate to the human body? It will show a range of historic, modern and contemporary depictions of flesh, from early religious works, such as a 14th Century “Dead Christ with Virgin and St John” to Francis Bacon’s portrait “Henrietta Moraes on a Blue Couch” and Kossoff’s “Seated Nude”. One wall is dominated by Adriana Varejao’s “Green Tilework in Live Flesh”. It will also show ‘Study of a Girl’s Head’ by Edgar Degas, ‘Ceres and Two Nymphs’ by Peter Paul Rubens, ‘Nude’ by Jenny Saville and ‘Youth’ by Ron Mueck.

Still Life looks at the way this genre is often loaded with meaning about life and decay and the precarious nature of our worldly goods. It features historic and modern approaches including Frans Snyder’s 17th Century “A Game Stall” and Sam Taylor-Johnson’s 2002 time lapse video “A Little Death”, in which a hare’s body is seen being consumed by maggots and clouds of flies. The room also features ‘Carcass of an Ox’ (Circle of Rembrandt) and ‘Still Life with Fish and Cat’ by Jean-Baptiste Chardin.
Materiality focusses on the abstract ways flesh is portrayed. Highlights include Sarah Lucas’ sculpture ‘NUD 4’, The Boyle Family’s photograph “Skin Series (number 8)”, Bruce Nauman’s 6’ tall fibreglass and resin sculpture “Untitled” and John Coplans’ “Frieze No 6”.
Surface is devoted to flesh as part of anatomies. On show are eight of Katarzyna Mirczak’s “The Special Signs”, in which she documented the tattoos from pieces of skin posthumously removed in the 19th Century from prisoners in Krakow, and kept preserved in formaldehyde. It also features other works by Jo Spence, William Etty and Auguste Rodin.

The final room will be dedicated to Steve McQueen’s film entitled ‘Bear’ (1993), his first major film, which shows two men wrestling together, with close ups focussing on their interlocking bodies.
Jointly curated with Dr Jo Applin from the University of York, the exhibition will be accompanied by a publication based on new research and a varied events programme. The exhibition has been supported by The University of York, the Henry Moore Foundation and Thomas Dane Gallery, London and features loans from Tate, National Galleries of Scotland, National Portrait Gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery and Manchester Art Gallery.
Contemporary collecting for the exhibition was made possible thanks to the Art Fund RENEW scheme, the Contemporary Art Society and Friends of York Art Gallery.

Flesh will run from September 23 – March 19 2017


Notes to Editors:

A selection of images are available on request.

York Art Gallery Opening Times:
23 September onwards

Monday- Sunday: 10am-5pm.
Last admission: 4:30pm
Closed: 25, 26 December and 1 January

YMT Card Holder FREE
Adult (with 10% Gift Aid Donation) £7.50
Adult (without donation) £6.81
Child (16 and under) FREE with a paying adult
Access Day Ticket £4.00

For further Information contact Lee Clark, communications manager, telephone 01904 687673 or email

About the Art Fund

The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone the Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, including ARTIST ROOMS and the 2013-18 Aspire tour of Tate’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators.

The Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 122,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 230 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions. In addition to grant-giving, the Art Fund’s support for museums includes the annual Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year (won by The V&A Museum in 2016), a publications programme and a range of digital platforms.

Find out more about the Art Fund and the National Art Pass at

For further information please contact Madeline Adeane, Press Relations Manager, / 0207 225 4804