In 1989 the Guerilla Girls asked the question: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” They indicated that less than 5 percent of all art in that museum was made by women, while 85 percent of the nude models are female.

More than 30 years later this question seems to be still relevant. Yet there are more female than male nudes in the museums, whereas only 1 in 5 works of art in the collection is made by female artists. I have been to a number of exhibits about nude and was surprised by the fact that there was virtually no male nude on display. 

On Women’s Day 2021, I sent a poster of a male nude with the title ‘Hij naakt. Zij maakt’ to 35 Dutch museums. Enclosed with the poster there was a letter in which I explained the project and asked them to display the poster in their museum on Women’s Day.

Poster and enclosed letter

How diverse is the art in our musea really?

Positive incentive

With the poster I wanted to show that a naked man also belongs in the museum and and give a positive incentive to continue to work on diversity in the art world.

I got emails back from a number of museums. Some denied the imbalance completely. Other museums claimed to have male nudes in their collection, but didn’t seem to budge because these works of art were all made by men.

Then I decided to also make a video in which I visit the Amsterdam museums and tell about their nude collection. The Bonnefanten museum was one of the few museums that was immediately enthusiastic, recognized the problem and put my poster on display.

Hij naakt. Zij maakt. Bonnefanten Museum

The letter

The original Dutch letter, you can download here. Beneath you find an english translation of a part of this letter.

In 1989 the Guerilla Girls asked the question: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” They indicated that less than 5 percent of all art in that museum was made by women, while 85 percent of the nude models are female.

More than 30 years later this question seems to be still relevant. Yet there are more female than male nudes in the museums, whereas only 1 in 5 works of art in the collection is made by female artists. 

I have been to a number of exhibits about nude and was surprised by the fact that there was virtually no male nude on display. I mention ‘Naakt of bloot?’ in Museum Jan Cunen, Museum Kranenburgh with ‘BLOOT – het kwetsbare lichaam’, Japanmuseum SieboldHuis with ‘Japans naakt’ and the Kunsthal with ‘For Your Eyes Only’.

Not only do we see few naked men in the museum, the male nudes on display are also mainly made by male artists. It is also remarkable how we deal with the male nude. In 2012, the Leopold Museum covered the soccer players’ genitals on their exhibition posters in the city after complaints were received. Naked women are apparently normal and naked men inappropriate.

Museums play an important social role and have a major impact on how people see the world. That is why I am very happy that they exist. I think we all agree that the art on display should reflect our society and show different perspectives. What would it do to people if they mainly see male artists in museums and never a male nude model? How would that affect our understanding of the male body, female sexuality and the role we as humans can play in society?

On Women’s Day I come up with a solution to this problem. I am offering my artwork ‘Hij naakt. Zij maakt.’ to 35 Dutch museums. I ask them to display the poster in their museum on Women’s Day, take a photo of it and share the photo via their (social) media channels with the world, using the hashtag #hijnaaktzijmaakt. The whole month of March, museums and people can support my project by sharing the poster via social media.

With the project, I hope to balance the percentage of female versus male nudes in museums a little bit more. It is a positive incentive to continue to work on diversity in the art world. “To show that a naked man also belongs in the museum and that we must continue to make efforts to improve the position of women in the art world.”

Buy the poster here:

* Currently the posters can only be send to Dutch addresses. Choose for the ‘standard’ option

Special thanks to:

Dinara Vasilevskaia (design)

David de Haan

Jeroen van Veen

Desiré Wild

Lekker Blijven Likken