Taboos And Erotic Forms Of Pleasure Explored In New Exhibition

The first Swiss exhibition of its kind exploring forms of pleasure in contemporary creation, Nirvana. Strange Forms of Pleasure is now on view in Winterthur at the Gewerbemuseum. The event features well known artists and designers such as Sarah Lucas (UK), Zaha Hadid (UK), Mark Newson, Mark Woods (UK) and Noritaka Tatehana. Design, fashion, contemporary art, and the first comprehensive study of the influence of erotica on design and fashion is featured in this groundbreaking new show. Bold, luxurious and mysterious, objects are unveiled in the exhibition which presents works by around eighty artists and designers, and over 200 objects and installations.

Curated by Marco Costantini and Susanne Hilpert Stuber, the exhibition highlights a selection of contemporary designers who draw on the iconography of pleasure in their creative work, finding inspiration in erotic and fetishist literature, along with the images, objects and clothing to which they frequently refer. Visitors will discover finely-crafted, sometimes rare and inaccessible items, made from materials usually associated with the worlds of luxury goods, craftsmanship and contemporary art.

The show invites us to examine our own ideas and perceptions of pleasure. It forces us to observe how its forms of expression can cross the line from the private to the public sphere when they are the subject of fashion, design or art. Designers cover the body with close-fitting garments or sensual materials, adorning them with jewellery that is aesthetically as well as erotically pleasing, creating furniture with evocative forms, works of art in which beauty and perfection are spiced with the whiff of brimstone. Nirvana shows that society’s desire for sensual pleasure remains vigorous in our digital age.

The work focuses on design, fashion, and also contemporary art, which helps to open our eyes: its aim is to examine our relationship with the forms and objects that give physical expression to our unconscious perceptions of sexuality and our private notions of pleasure. In the exhibits, taboos are subverted by the use of unexpected shapes and materials, and by an attention to detail that has much in common with what the fashion world would consider haute couture.

Celebrated and up-and-coming designers alike bring these multiple influences into the spotlight, placing in the public sphere what has hitherto remained private. All these designers force us to question our value judgements on erotic practices by presenting unexpectedly luxurious items, worked to the highest standards of craftsmanship in leather, glass and precious metals.

Artists featured include:

Mark Woods’ objects are a fascinating exploration of the concept of transgression. Unambiguously referencing the world of erotica, their softness, delicacy and beauty distance them from their potential function. They play on concepts borrowed from feminism, masculinity, sexuality and even religion, the attractiveness of their execution and the nobility of their materials – ebony, silver, lace, velvet – capturing the senses of the onlooker. The bespoke boxes and containers specially designed to house these marvellous objects become veritable “Cabinets of curiosities” that demand only to be opened. 

Betony Vernon was born in 1968 in Tazewell, Virginia, to an American pilot father and English civil rights activist mother. Her stylistic and sexual education took place on the East Coast of the USA, before at the age of 20 she moved to Italy, where she still lives, splitting her time between Milan and Paris. She began by selling her creations to some of the most prestigious labels in the world, before developing her own line of luxury erotic jewellery crafted in silver. Today her work is exhibited in Paris, Milan and New York, and she rubs shoulders with high-profile design- ers, couturiers and contemporary artists. She has devoted the last six years to writing her best-selling book, The Boudoir Bible, in which she takes a down-to-earth but light-hearted look at the secrets to achieving pleasure.

The vision of sexuality that Betony Vernon embraces in her book and through her jewellery eschews the commercial in favour of fine craftsmanship. “I don’t make sex toys. My objects are precious and they demand respect. Some can be worn outside of the boudoir, to a cocktail party or the opera. They are as much objets d’art as they are toys.” Be- tony Vernon’s erotic jewellery, with its decidedly non-organic forms, embraces mystery but not secrecy. Designed to refine and augment pleasure, they are a far cry from the plastic made-in-China trinkets that fill the shelves of sex shops. 

Nika Zupanc, a young Slovenian designer, offers a unique vision of desire in the world of design. The furniture she creates pushes aesthetic limits and suggests a new visual code that reinterprets pre-existing or predefined mean- ings, challenging us to look at them in a new way. She playfully revisits feminine archetypes, combining glamour with a caustic wit, as in the Mrs Dalloway hotplate in the shape of a powder compact, or the suite entitled Self-discipline comprising a lamp, desk, chair and wardrobe that elegantly subvert the codes of S&M.

As well as running her own label, La Femme et la Maison, which she created on graduating from the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Nika Zupanc also works with contemporary design houses such as Moooi and Moroso. Her works have appeared in prestigious publications including Wallpaper, the New York Times, AD, Elle, Design Week and Desire. 

Other artists include: 

Abdi Abdelkader, DZ Milena Altini, IT Nobuyoshi Araki, JP, Bina Baitel, FR, David Baskin, USA, Yves Béhar, CH, François Berthoud, CH Barbara Bloom, USA Antoine Boudin, FR Pierre Charpin, FR Petros Chrisostomou, UK Matteo Cibic, IT, Matali Crasset, FR, Charlie Davidson, SE, Marc Dibeh, LB, Patrycja Domanska, PL, Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, FR Anika Engelbrecht, DE, Matthew Epler, USA État Libre d’Orange, FR Naomi Filmer, UK Sylvie Fleury, CH, Björn Franke, DE Rachel Freire, UK, Marie Garnier, FR Christian Ghion, FR Givenchy, FR, Heeley, FR, Roberto Greco, IT Julian Hakes, UK, Zaha Hadid, UK-IRQ Sophie Hanagarth, CH Jaime Hayon, SP Dejana Kabiljo, HR Cary Kwok, HK, Masaya Kushino, JP Ugo La Pietra, IT Jacques Le Corre, FR Lubin, FR, Charlie le Mindu, FR, Gianmarco Lorenzi, IT, Sarah Lucas, UK, Maison Martin Margiela, FR Maître Parfumeur et Gantier, FR Luc Mattenberger, CH, Gabriel Moginot, FR Eelko Moorer, NL Nasomatto, NL, Mark Newson, AU Magdalene Odundo, KEN Erwin Olaf, NL, Oriza L. Legrand, FR Parfum d’Empire, FR Parfumerie Générale, FR Kate Peters, UK, Karim Rashid, EG, Mustafa Sabbagh, IT, Olivier Schawalder, CH, Markus Schinwald, AT, Ettore Sottsass, IT, Studio Job, BE & NL Jean-Baptiste Sibertin Blanc, FR Caro Suerkemper, DE, Gianluca Tamburini, IT, Noritaka Tatehana, JP, Mario Testino, IT, Matteo Thun, IT, Morgane Tschiember, FR, Walter Van Beirendonck, BE Atelier Van Lieshout, BE, Lucas Van Vugt, NL, Nick Veasey, UK, Olivier Védrine, FR, Jean-Luc Verna, FR, Betony Vernon, USA, Vero Profumo, CH, Rein Vollenga, NL, Mark Woods, UK, Jeff Zimmermann, USA Nika Zupanc, SI 

NIRVANA STRANGE FORMS OF PLEASURE: 29 November 2015 – 8 May 2016

Kirchplatz 14 CH 8400 Gewerbemuseum Winterthur Switzerland

Buy this original signed print by Mark Woods from Artlyst Here

Mark Woods - The unchanging nature of the Fetish object - 2013

Related Posts

Insanity Fair at Elephant West, White City. Book a private tour and meet the artist, visit — Closes 8th July
Jerry Kaye - Look good, feel good
Artlyst -- Art to Poetry - Competition In Association The Poetry Society
Artlyst Benefit screen prints by Simon Patterson. Exclusive Editions
Open Source Salon with Hauser and Wirth - A new monthly discussion group
Advertise your next show on Artlyst from £200 per week