October 30, 2012 / 3:54 PM / 6 years ago

Naked men exhibition arouses Viennese interest

VIENNA (Reuters) - People in Vienna have flocked to an art exhibition on male nudity which sparked controversy before it opened this month with posters of three naked football players across the Austrian capital.

A police officer stands next to a poster with naked soccer players daubed with spray paint, advertising an art exhibition in Vienna October 17, 2012. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer

The Leopold Museum said on Tuesday that the “nude men” show was drawing more visitors than one devoted to Gustav Klimt earlier this year to mark the Austrian symbolist painter’s 150th birthday.

“You could not expect this because Klimt is a highlight of Vienna,” museum spokesman Klaus Pokorny said, adding that the current exhibition had not been done before. “People are curious.”

More than 1,000 people - on some days more than twice that - have visited the museum daily since the exhibition started on October 19, Pokorny said.

Earlier this month, the Leopold Museum said it had decided to cover the football players’ “intimate parts” on large placards advertising the exhibition after they caused an outcry.

The original photograph by French artists Pierre & Gilles - called “Vive La France” - of three men of different races wearing nothing but blue, white and red socks and soccer boots can now be seen at the Leopold among some 300 other artworks.

Due to run until January 28, the exhibition is designed to show how the depiction of male nudity has evolved in art history.

A diverse range of styles is represented, including classical themes by 17th century Dutch painter Peter Paul Rubens and others, as well as more explicit and modern content by U.S. photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and other avant-garde artists.

“It is new for me, it was interesting,” Anna, a young Austrian woman, said about the art on display. “We had to see it,” her friend Helmut said.

But Peter Schroeder, a German visiting the museum with his Finnish wife, said they were more interested in the Japanese ink paintings and calligraphy also exhibited in the museum.

“Finland is a very liberal country. This is nothing special,” he said.

The museum - named after Austrian collector Rudolf Leopold - houses the world’s largest collection of works by Egon Schiele, one of Austria’s major 20th century artists.

Reporting by Fredrik Dahl, editing by Paul Casciato and Stephanie Pett

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