2015 PROJECT NAKED Chapter 5 – April – Hyde Park Corner

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One day in April provided two opportunities for 2015: PROJECT NAKED to capture contrasting icons of heroism. First was the classical icon; the fearless muscular warrior who, from ancient days through to the 19th century, was the idealised form of a hero.

A dramatic sculptural example of this is the 18ft-high bronze statue of Achilles – Greek hero of the Trojan War – which stands upon a plinth of Dartmoor granite near Hyde Park Corner, central London.

It was sculpted in 1822 and inaugurated that same year, dedicated to the Duke of Wellington. Curiously the cost of £10,000 is said to have been donated by British women. Would that happen today? How do we feel about the classical warrior image now?

I visited the statue with Andrew, who was fresh from appearing as one of the figure models on a BBC series to find “Britain’s Best Amateur Artist”. Andrew has the classic sculpted body in the style of Achilles, but I wanted him truly naked in our modern city.

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Achilles has sword and shield for acts of war, and a fig leaf to avoid offending us. Andrew reproduced the Achilles pose in the same public space, with harmless plastic weapons but without the fig leaf. Does this make him more or less dangerous?

And which is more absurd? Arming Andrew with a plastic sword or placing a fig leaf on Achilles? The artistic convention of heroic nudity was established in the art of ancient Greece, yet in our modern world we still err on the side of modesty in our public spaces.

Andrew was a fantastic model, braving both the early morning cold and an equally cold glare from one of the park workers. His pose was classic but his body was real, a natural reflection of his personality. 2015: PROJECT NAKED is about the real.

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