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The many faces of our Goddess Aphrodite

The AG Leventis Gallery spoils art lovers with a building specially designed to host art, a café where you can enjoy your coffee surrounded by art, a gift shop where you can buy a little bit of art to take home with you, and it also adds to this with its Wednesday lectures.

As the temporary exhibition The Venus Paradox at the gallery will come to an end on January 15, the gallery will use what time it has left to highlight the complexities of Goddess Aphrodite with a lecture entitled The Modern Venus: Goddess or Whore, scheduled for this Wednesday.

Professor Anthea Callen, FRSA Professor Emeritus of the Australian National University and Professor Emeritus of Visual Culturen University of Nottingham, UK, will intrigue the audience with her lecture dedicated to Venus. Callen will provide an insight through the keyhole of the scandalous lives of the French elite and bourgeoisie, where works of art became more sexualised with the female figure at its centre. She will accomplish this through her specialisation on gender politics of visual representation between the 18th and 20th century.

This conception of the female nude turned away from the sanitised eroticism of Venus – secure in her porcelain, rosy-white complexion and the pretentions of her classical context – to depict, by contrast, the palpably painted skin of living, breathing women, rendered all the more shocking because of their stark contemporaneity. Stripped of the lofty mythological cover of Venus, which allowed the (male) viewer to indulge in the pleasure of exposed flesh under the guise of antique allusions, these daring nudes in fact portray the naked truth of contemporary sexual mores. Turning viewer into voyeur, they epitomise an uncomfortable reality: a society in which Venus is no goddess – but the grisette, the artist’s model or mistress, the working girl, whether seamstress, milliner or shop assistant – and her domain, one that hovers uncertainly between respectability and the shady world of the demi-monde.

Callen is an author, lecturer, art expert and painter who specialises in art history, visual culture and the gender politics of visual representation spanning the 18th to 20th centuries, notably in France and Britain. Her latest book, Looking at Men: Art, Anatomy and the Modern Male Body, is forthcoming from Yale University Press, and she recently published The Work of Art: Plein Air Painting and Artistic Identity in Nineteenth-century France (2015). Callen has a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship 2016-2018 to research her new book, Painting the Avant-Garde, also for Yale. She contributes regularly as an art expert on BBC1’s Fake or Fortune.

As this lecture in English has limited seats, please book your place early by calling 22-668838 or sending an email to [email protected]

The Modern Venus: Goddess or Whore?
Lecture by professor Athena Callen. December 13. AG Leventis Gallery, Nicosia. 7.30pm. In English. Tel: 22-668838


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