When you think of the National Gallery famous works by Turner, Van Gogh and Rembrandt come to mind not a replica of Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
The provocative exhibit, Hoerengracht or ‘Whore Canal’ by American artist Nancy Reddin and her late husband Ed Kienholz, who are known for their controversial and socially critical works of art, is one of the gallery’s most shocking piece displayed to date, capturing the seediness of late night Amsterdam.
Walking through the streets of the Hoerengracht, lit by neon red lights, you feel uncomfortable with its eerie alley ways and life like mannequins dressed in revealing underwear in windows and doorways offering their bodies, one posed washing her private parts and another wearing see-through knickers.
I’ve never been to Amsterdam but would expect the Red Light District to be as seedy and unsightly as Kienholz’s voyeuristic exhibit which pays attentions to the smallest of details, from the bollards and bike stands lining the streets to the pictures hanging and music playing in each home.
The Hoerengracht, located in the National Gallery’s Bernard and Marley Sunny room, is one of Reddin Kienholz’s largest pieces and took nearly five years to complete. The couple became fascinated with Amsterdam’s Red Light District after making numerous visits to the city.
Nancy, who is known for her works of art depicting prostitution and sex, claims the ‘Whore Canal’ is a kind portrait of the profession. She goes on to say that she hopes prostitution will be made legal so girls can get police protection rather than prosecution, and this is what the tableaux apparently aims to portray?
The Horengracht is on display at the National Gallery until February 2010. Entry to the exhibit is free.