Enter the House of the Sleeping Beauties

Launch Slideshow

From 14 February to 28 March, S│2 London will present House of the Sleeping Beauties; an exhibition touching upon the erotic, the body, surrealism, performance and theatricality in art from the 19th century to present day.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a reprint of Yasunari Kawabata’s 1961 novella of the same name. Artists such as Francis Picabia, Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp will be exhibited alongside artists of the sixties and seventies such as Renate Bertlmann. Click the image above to view the slideshow.

Enter the House of the Sleeping Beauties

  • Renate Bertlmann is a leading feminist avant-garde artist who explores the representation of sexuality, gender and eroticism within a social context. Her practice confronts the social stereotypes assigned to masculine and feminine behaviours, however, despite her close ties to the women’s art movement in 1970s, Bertlmann’s work is set out somewhat by its inclusion of a masculine perspective. This particular artwork from a series of photographs called René Ou Renée touched upon topics of masturbation, seduction, diminishing the distinction between men and women with the use language and choreography. Bertlmann was, at first, reluctant to exhibit this series due to the intimate subject matter.
  • Joseph Cornell was an innovator of assemblage art , a precursor of Pop Art and a prominent surrealist. Despite being reluctant to be identified with the group, Cornell’s work incorporated dream-like-imagery often rooted in childhood experiences. This particular collage from 1933, is a prime example of Cornell’s artistic vision combining found material and his distinct aesthetic, it was created shortly after a ground-breaking Surréalisme show, where he exhibited along with Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali who branded Cornell’s art as ‘the only truly Surrealist work to be found in America.’
  • Rose English is one of the most influential performance artists who emerged from the Conceptual art, dance and feminist scenes of 1970s Britain. Her practice combines elements of theatre, circus, opera and poetry to explore themes of gender politics, the identity of the performer and the metaphysics of presence. There is considerable diversity in English’s work , as her co-performers range from musicians and dancers to circus performers, magicians and horses.
  • Wally Hedrick was an artist and pioneer of the California counterculture movement and Beat generation. His practice spanned Pop art, kinetic sculpture, Neo-expressionism, Happenings and Conceptual art. Hedrick's paintings "are filled with provocative, often whimsical messages, many of which would be considered daring if measured by the standards of the time in which they were painted.”
  • Běla Kolářová belongs to the generation which touched off an iconoclastic revolution and “rearmament” in Czech art during the 1960s, pioneering an art based on found and designed objects often associated with domesticity. Kolářová’s lack of formal training excluded her from the communist regime’s official art circuit, however, her work was still celebrated in many of the key counter-cultural exhibitions of her day. These serial works and their kaleidoscopic effects recall minimal and op art, though the intimate nature of the materials introduces a different sensibility, fusing the traditional patterns of craft with the aesthetic of the cybernetic age.
  • Diane Kotila is a contemporary multidisciplinary artist. Her paintings , wide in range, scale and physicality, and are an odd family of emotional beings, some dark, some humorous, some tragic, all reveling in the possibilities and pleasures offered by paint. Kotila has recently moved from Seattle to Brooklyn and used to leave her paintings by trucker’s rest stops and watch them being taken away.
  • Friedl Kubelka began taking pictures from a young age. She is interested in capturing people around her that she knows, as well as self-portraiture. In the Pin Up series from the mid-1970s, Kubelka performs the role of the erotic model, posing in black stockings, leg cocked, her large camera positioned in order to obscure her face. Pin-ups were born from the period after her education; one of deep unrest and sustained unhappiness, spent trying to work out her own needs and desires by exposing them on film. “I wanted to be the object of desire,” she says. “I wanted somebody. But I wanted to also be the person that renders the object of desire.”
  • Sherrie Levine is an American artist and member of the Pictures Generation. Through her practice, Levine wrestles with the age-old questions surrounding authorship, citation, and originality in art. Famed for recreating the work of historically significant male artists, her work confronts the plasticity and value ascribed to ownership and authorial intention. Levine created abstract paintings loaded with art historical references as well as sculptural works which reproduced iconic artworks and modernist motifs. Her recent work includes cast bronze sculptures of taxidermied animals, glass skulls, and African masks. While these subjects appear to have few commonalities, they reference important leitmotifs in the art historical canon. The bronze sculpture Dada was fabricated from a wooden toy hobby-horse discovered in the desert of New Mexico, where Levine currently resides.
  • Natalia LL has contributed to the global feminist movement through works that explore the reaches of femininity and feminism. Her most notorious projects of the early 1970s were Consumer Art ( 1972-1975) and Post- consumer Art (1975), in which the model performs activities associated with consumption - mainly the literal consumption of suggestive foods, such as bananas, whipped cream, milk. These images were presented as photographic performances - much like a film – whereby the artist used photography as a means of reaching a dreamlike realm where these acts were reduced to the level of pure aesthetics and sensual experience.
  • Walter Pfeiffer is a photographer whose subjects have included an unconventional representation of the male body and of his own sexuality, with a focus on homosexual desire and imagery. A prevailing characteristic of his work is the way in which such eroticism flirts with a certain delicacy, as flowers and still life imagery feature as key constituents of his aesthetic. The work has an intense beauty, depicting a person at their moment of becoming, just before that beauty is taken from them.
  • Francis Picabia, was a French-Cuban painter , illustrator, designer, writer, and editor, who was successively involved in the Cubist, Dada, and Surrealist art movements. In the early 1940s he moved to the South of France, where his work took a surprising turn: he produced a series of paintings based on the nude glamour photos in French "girlie" magazines like Paris Sex-Appeal, in a garish style which appears to subvert traditional, academic nude painting. Some of these went to an Algerian merchant who sold them, and so it passed that Picabia came to decorate brothels across North Africa.
  • Andrew Sherwood is a photographer who worked closely with the likes of Andy Warhol and important queer groups of the 1970s. He did a series of intimate portraits of Warhol Superstar Jackie Curtis and of George Harris III (aka Hibiscus) who was part of the San Francisco- based queer performance group The Cockettes, which staged now legendary midnight musicals at the Palace Theatre. These musicals were jubilant, inclusive and rebellious extravaganzas. This work captures Hibiscus whose embrace of drag and experimentation attracted a group of like-minded hippies and followers alike.
  • Penny Slinger is an artist whose revolutionary and provocative practice spans photography, film and sculpture. Her practice explores and investigates the notion of the feminine subconscious and psyche, using her own body to examine the relationships between sexuality, mysticism and feminism. Slinger describes her practice as a ‘map of the journey of the self ’: photographing her nude body in provocative poses, she superimposes and collages images of herself with ready-made photographic material, producing surreal images in which the presence of the naked artist becomes phantasmal and haunting.
  • John Tweddle drew liberally from the “low art” traditions of cartoons and comic books while mounting an intellectually rigorous exploration of capitalism, iconography and the counterculture revolution. Tweddle arranges these symbols of contemporary culture into intricate and meticulously plotted patterns reminiscent of patchwork quilting, navajo tapestry and aboriginal bark painting. Thus rooted in folk art tradition. Tweddle’s rough-edged brushwork and dusty palette of ochre and green render icons of the American landscape with a dark and chaotic complexity. This painting from 1967 captures a particularly fertile period in the artist’s career.
  • Keith Vaughan was an English painter and art teacher who is best known for his paintings of male nudes. Vaughan became a painter of figure compositions that attempted to balance male nudes with abstract environments. His work can be regarded as an expression of his homoerotic feelings published in the years before the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom. Vaughan was a self-taught painter and, according to the diaries he kept, perhaps used the medium as a means to cope with the frustrations of his unfulfilled homosexual fantasies. Vaughan rapidly developed an idiosyncratic style which moved him away from the Neo-Romantics. Concentrating on studies of male figures, his works became increasingly abstract.
  • Issy Wood is a painter whose practice incorporates figures, inanimate objects and fragmented words in such a way as to de-familiarise them and create viewing experiences suspended between the real and the imagined. Over armour (2018), from a series of paintings of jackets, confronts the viewer with an object of desire. Painted on velvet and with stark frontal perspective, the black puffer hovers on the surface cropped at the neck and sleeves, ambiguously devoid of a human wearer. Removing the object from its original function as a piece of clothing, Wood’s painting teeters on the edge of representation and signification.
  • Thomas Woolner was a sculptor and poet and one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who made his name with forceful portrait busts and medallions. At the age of nineteen he modeled the sculpture Puck, demonstrating his technical skill in rendering naturalism of human form. However, it is also charming for its expression of the supernatural. With his pointed ears, sharpened chin and piercing wings, Puck is an image of creative imagination. He arches his back in mischief as he prepares to prod the frog. Puck was also Thomas Woolner’s favourite sculpture, which notably informed Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871). In the process of sculpting Puck, Woolner studied and emphasised the tips often formed outside the infolded point of human ears and explained this discovery to Darwin who termed it the ‘Woolnerian tip’ and asked Woolner to illustrate this point for his publication.
  • Kurt Seligmann was a Swiss-American Surrealist painter and engraver. He was known for his fantastic imagery of medieval troubadours and knights in macabre rituals inspired by the carnival held annually in his native Basel, Switzerland. The fantastic and anguished imagery that emerge from his paintings and numerous woodcuts are a testament to, among other things, two artistic traditions: first, his examination of deformed and frightening visions evoked from the subconscious is typical of Surrealism, and second, it owes much to the rich Swiss-German figurative tradition exposed to Seligmann as a boy. Dream of Nicholas Flamel is rooted in a Nordic environment of the medieval variety, populated by devils, suits of armour, heraldic imagery, threatening beings, and anthropomorphic creatures.
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