By David Drake
Little did I know I would have a quick encounter with Sarah Skinner in the morning of December 2, 2015 at the Art Basel preview.
Matthew Eck, the owner of X Contemporary, walked up to me while I was in one of the DC Finance family office private lunch cocktail previews. Matt said hi to me and reminded me that he was in my New York City penthouse a few months ago discussing his tent.
I did not realize that he was talking about a tent with major exhibitions of many great artists across the nation. X Contemporary debuted during Art Basel Miami Beach 2015. The art fair’s focus: works of emerging and mid-career artists.
As I left the private preview with my family office entourage in tow, I caught a glimpse of this amazing photo taken in Hollywood Boulevard.
As my friends were leaving and urging me to hurry up, Sarah Skinner smiled and asked me if I like the picture that mesmerized me.
I asked for her card, smiled back and told her that I will catch up with her in New York City. She looked curiously at me. A week later she ended up at my duplex, The Soho Loft Penthouse, just like Matt, the owner of the exhibit tent.
We talked about her fashion career in Paris and specifically the photo that captivated me. She currently lives in Brooklyn, and tells me that in 2013 she and her girlfriend decided to do the photo shoot. I asked her why she did the photoshoot, and why superimposed the photo with superheroes.
Sarah said, “I did it because I wanted to shock people. I wanted to do something I knew was taboo. I wanted to make a statement about the oppression of the female body in conjunction with the characters in costumes hiding behind masks and tights making money, taking money from people much like a prostitute, but they are not shamed, they are famed for it – I don’t see the difference.”
Moreover, Sarah said, “ I wanted to peel all the layers off and give the tourists something real, something they would never forget. I didn’t know the superheroes were going to follow us. I just knew they were going to be there. I let the reality unfold before my lens. Why not give the tourists and this make believe world something real, something so taboo as a beautiful naked woman simply walking down the street. To me, she is the real superhero.”
She said they were shamed by people and got yelled at. She posed these questions: “Why? Because it is illegal? Because she is naked? Because people just want something to be angry at because they have nothing better to do? Because shaming makes people feel superior over a naked woman?”
According to Sarah, the relationship between Batman and the naked woman really summed up everything. She said, “I didn’t plan that, but that is a mirror of the reality a woman lives in our society.
When I asked her if she will do a similar photoshoot, she said, “I am not sure if I would do it again.”
She also said that she would not have done the photoshoot any other way. She would just have arranged for a better police security watch. She was not afraid to be arrested. The security would have taken care of “my camera before I am arrested.”
I am surprised that this incident didn’t get more attention from the media. Here is the 9-minute video of the photo shoot and how she and her girlfriend were arrested by the police for indecent exposure, complete with a warrant of arrest. It was unfortunate they decided to do the shoot on a Saturday. Consequently, they were not able to get out of it until Monday morning.
Granted that running butt naked in public view is not a new thing:
- Naked men run in the 2015 Naked Bay to Breakers 7.5 mile race from San Francisco to Pacific Ocean – they run unhampered and anyone can take pictures
- Oblation Run is a yearly event in a university campus – college students run unimpeded and anyone can take pictures
- A naked female student runs in the Amsterdam square to win free tuition for one year – pictures were taken and published in the news article
- nuderaces.com organizes varied sports competitions with participants in the nude but picture taking is not allowed
I find it intriguing to see how Sarah likes to push the limits of the legalities of our world as captured by her camera. As you can see from her website she had a chance to do a photoshoot at an illegal dungeon in Madrid, and other photo shoots at locations where she did not have permission. She said, “Rules are meant to be broken.”
Sarah took a picture of #StevenTyler. She also had a photo with him.
Shooting her girlfriend in Hollywood Boulevard with the characters from Marvel standing by is to me ballsy, artistic and pushing the envelope of what Photo Art can be achieved today.
I also queried her that if given the chance, will she do a similar photo shoot this 2016? She said, “No I wouldn’t do it again, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do something disruptive again for the sake of art. And obviously I wouldn’t tell you where I would do it.”
At the end of my interview with her at my penthouse, The Soho Loft, it was my turn to take the photos. She was an equally interesting subject with her many faces – happy, pondering, smiling, and more.
Created in 1970 in Switzerland, Art Basel carries modern and contemporary art, categorized in eight sectors such as galleries, films and magazines. From Basel, it launched in Miami in 2002, and in Hong Kong in 2013. Art Basel connects with top galleries in the world as well as art patrons and connoisseurs. It offers 20th and 21st century art with a strong curatorial stance.
David Drake is the Chairman of LDJ Capital, a multi-family office; Victoria Partners, a 300 family office network; LDJ Real Estate Group and Drake Hospitality Group; and The Soho Loft Media Group with divisions Victoria Global Communications,Times Impact Publications, and The Soho Loft Conferences. Reach him directly at David@LDJCapital.com.