Prostitution – COUM Transmissions (Exhibition at the ICA in 1976)

Poster for the show

An explicit and hugely controversial exhibition:  PROSTITUTION at the ICA  The following talk was held at the ICA on Monday 21 January 2008

‘In Richard Hamilton’s 1956 description of pop art he insisted that it needed to be sexy. This has been the mantra of the designer, the performer and the advertising executive ever since. It has also, in different ways, been a position adopted by the curator – after all, sex sells. Prostitution (ICA, 1976), a now infamous show, has endured in part because of its explicit content. Even in its revisited form at the Tate Triennial last year, the gallery had to physically segregate the work in case it caused offence. Yet the small display of 70s porn with artist Cosey Fanni Tutti’s retrospective musings was one the most popular exhibits. Does sex still have the power to shock? Is controversy still one of the highest aims of the curator?’

Speakers:

John Russell, artist;
Tamar Garb, Durning Lawrence Professor in History of Art, University College London;
Lynda Nead, Pevner Professor of History of Art, Birkbeck;
Sarah Kent, art critic and broadcaster;
Kate Bush, head of art galleries at the Barbican. 

Discussion in the blog ,60 years curating, 10 discussions on the recent history of curating’:
Sex Sells: Erotic Experience and Controversy as Curatorial Method

Podcast of the talk: ‘Sex Sells’ podcast ICA 2008

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