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Titian works inspire peep show, sexy robot

  • Conrad Shawcross's 'Trophy'

  • Titian's Diana and Actaeon' (1556-1559)

LONDON: A peep show of seven women named Diana and a “seductive” robot are among the modern works unveiled at London’s National Gallery in an exhibition inspired by Renaissance master Titian.

The gallery has invited artists, poets, choreographers and composers to create works based on three great nudes by the 16th-century Italian painter for the new show, “Metamorphosis: Titian 2012.”

The museum hopes the free exhibition, which opened Wednesday, will attract visitors arriving in London for the Olympic Games, which take place in the British capital between July 27 and Aug. 12.

The three Titian paintings – “Diana and Actaeon,” “The Death of Actaeon” and “Diana and Callisto” – are on show alongside the modern works, in their first joint appearance since the late 18th century.

“They’re intended to delight the senses,” said exhibition curator Minna Moore Ede of Titian’s original curvaceous nudes, which scandalized 16th-century viewers because they were so lifelike. “They were probably intended to be viewed by men only – and there are moments in their history when they were covered by curtains if women were around.”

The gallery’s guest artists have taken Titian’s risque themes to heart.

Conrad Shawcross offers a huge industrial robot named “Trophy” as his futuristic depiction of Diana, the ancient Greek goddess who is the focus of all three Titian paintings.

“I would never have imagined that between two Titians we would have a robot,” Moore Ede observed. “And such a beguiling one, too.”

The robot’s sensual movements are an homage to Diana – who, according to the myth, was caught bathing nude by the hunter Actaeon.

In revenge, Diana turns Actaeon into a stag and he is devoured by his hunting dogs – which Shawcross represents with a wooden antler.

A onetime winner of Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize, Mark Wallinger lets the viewer turn voyeur with his take on Titian, “Diana.”

Wallinger tracked down seven women called Diana to take turns sitting naked in a mocked-up bathroom, which visitors can view through two peep-holes.

Nigerian-British painter Chris Ofili, another Turner Prize winner, transfers Titian’s nudes to the colorful landscape of Trinidad, where he lives and works.

The gallery has also commissioned several leading poets, including Carol Ann Duffy and Seamus Heaney, to write new works inspired by the paintings.

It’s dancers who are set to steal the show, with seven Titian-inspired ballets, set to original scores by British composers, to be performed by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House from July 14-20.

The July 16 performance will be broadcast live on giant screens at London’s Trafalgar Square – home to the gallery and the famous Nelson’s Column monument – and across Britain.

The gallery’s free exhibition, which runs until Sept. 23, is part of the “Cultural Olympiad,” a huge program of arts events around Britain in celebration of the Games.

Titian was the greatest painter of 16th-century Venice, and the first Renaissance painter to enjoy a broad international clientele.

He was hugely popular with courts across Europe, and painted the three “Diana” masterpieces, based on the Roman poet Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” for King Philip II of Spain.

The National Gallery bought “Diana and Callisto” in March along with the National Gallery of Scotland, after buying “Diana and Actaeon” in 2009 and “The Death of Actaeon” in 1972.

“Metamorphosis: Titian 2012” is up at London’s National Gallery until Sept. 23.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 13, 2012, on page 16.

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