Naked art brings 1700 volunteers

By Helen McCormack

LONDON - They braved a bright but bitingly cold morning and the bemused glances of early-morning revellers to take part in an art form that guarantees unremitting exposure.

More than 1700 people volunteered yesterday for American artist Spencer Tunick's latest piece of naked art in Gateshead - the largest number of participants in one of his British projects, easily beating the 160 who bared all outside Saatchi Gallery, and the 600 who took to the escalators of Selfridges on Oxford Street in 2003.

He has created similar installations in Barcelona, Melbourne and Montreal.

"It was really, really liberating", said Keeley Henderson, 24, a student from Sunderland, who took part with her mother, Susan Henderson, 53. "I don't think anyone felt at all vulnerable."

The great unclothed stopped at the Millennium Bridge, before going onto Dean Street, where Tunick wanted to fill the road with a "thin sliver of bodies".

Three hours later the artist said he was delighted with the results and that the participants had helped him to make some "wonderful work".

Speaking as he prepared to co-ordinate a final installation, broadcast live as part of a BBC documentary last night, Tunick said: "Those who took part have really achieved something.

It is a life-affirming experience and something to celebrate.

"This was interesting for me in that I shot from a far higher vantage point, which was pretty fascinating, although it was hard to command from that height."

Asked whether the urban landscape in the city had influenced his work, he said: "I don't think the landscape brings information to the bodies. Bodies bring new information to the landscape."

Naked City: Spencer Tunick in Newcastle-Gateshead was commissioned by the Baltic Gallery, who will show an exhibition of the installation in January 2006.


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