Let's Talk About Sex

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Launch Slideshow

Ahead of the hotly-anticipated Erotic: Passion & Desire sale which takes place in London on 16 February, Sotheby's assembled a panel of experts including pin-up icon Pamela Anderson, Editor of The Erotic Review, Rowan Pelling; Sunday Times dating columnist, Cosmo Landesman and Robin Cawdron-Stewart, Sotheby's Modern & Post-War British Art Specialist to discuss the tantalising works on display in the exhibition; what will become the new taboos in image-making, and to ask "Has erotic intimacy – and eroticism in art – become harder to achieve in the digital age?" Click through to see highlights from the talk, and revisit the best quotes from the day. 

Erotic: Passion & Desire
London | 16 February 2017

Photography: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's

 

Let's Talk About Sex

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Sotheby's Constantine Frangos and Pamela Anderson take a tour of the exhibition before the talk. 



    Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    From left to right: Cosmo Landesman, Pamela Anderson, Robin Cawdron-Stewart and Rowan Pelling.



     



    Robin Cawdron-Stewart



    "Art has always existed to tell a human story – and sex has always been a part of this story; whether to shock, to compel, to excite or repulse. Ideas of sensuality and sexuality have always been inherent to the nature of art. Art by its very purpose is there to attract and to be seen – to say 'come hither and observe me'. This is not something that is new to the twentieth century. It is something that has been the case ever since art began."



    Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Rowan Pelling



    "This tremendously intimate, erotic space (for example in the Egon Schiele or Gustav Klimt works) seems to me something valuable for young people to know about, and something you perhaps don't see as much of in more contemporary imagery."

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Cosmo Landesman



    "I've probably transgressed every boundary known to man, woman or beast – it’s hard to imagine what’s left. I think it’s much harder now because we have greater volume and instant access to erotic images. This is the big difference, but it’s not like there weren’t erotic images when I was growing up – you could get a copy of Playboy. But now it's there all the time."

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Pamela Anderson



    "Nowadays we are so bombarded with information, imagery and pornography, but we know from all these pieces in this exhibition that we were having sex from the beginning. It was always very celebrated and maybe even more special historically because it wasn't so accessible. Erotic art doesn't replace sex – but I think pornography does."

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Robin Cawdron-Stewart



    "Some of the more challenging or interesting works within this exhibition are those which deal with ideas of fetishism...ideas of being bound, costumes and role play. I think it's something that is still seen as a taboo, and it's still a bit of a challenging subject, but one that is surprisingly popular in an undercurrent."



    Rowan Pelling



    "Especially in Britain, where we've always been famous for being spankers!"

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Cosmo Landesman



    "Now, the younger generation who have not been grounded in the romantic notions that we grew up with are going straight from adolescence into pornography, and I don't know if that transition is good. We've lost something: the idea of romance, we've lost the idea of flirtation, of a kind of slow intimacy, because digital life gives you instant gratification. You don't have to spend time getting to know someone as a person. If you don't like them – swipe! – get a new date. And I think that's a terrible loss."

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
    Cosmo Landesman, Pamela Anderson, Robin Cawdron-Stewart and Rowan Pelling.
    Pamela Anderson



    "Between the photographer and the model there is definitely an intimate relationship. You become very close, very quickly, and it’s a magical experience. I have become very good friends with photographers I've worked with. Now that I'm taking my own pictures, I realise there's a really incredible dialogue going on that I didn't even realise from the other end of the camera. The energy is really interesting – there's a dance going on, it's very sexy."

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    The crowd respond as Pamela says she feels inspired to redecorate her home after seeing the replica table once owned by Catherine the Great .

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Pamela Anderson



    "I'm currently writing a book called The Sensual Revolution, and it's about desensitisation and remembering how important human interaction is. I think loneliness is an epidemic, I think people are addicted to pornography – and I know that's funny coming from me, I should probably disqualify myself from the conversation, but I thought Playboy was not that explicit, or pornographic. The sexual revolution gave us a lot of freedoms, but also really bad, empty sex. And so now these people are lonely. Who are we going to grow old with, and be in love with?"

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Rowan Pelling



    "When you look at a piece of erotic art, it always seems to me more complicated than just you looking. You're thinking about the artist who created it, the model, and what all those implied relationships are. And then it comes to you; you are also implicated because as the voyeur. You are the essential third point of the triangle. It seems to me the things that are dull and unimaginative, that one would probably deem pornography, never demand that of you."

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Robin Cawdron-Stewart



    "Historically there has always been a difference between the male nude and the female nude. But there are artists who treat the male and the female nude in a very similar way – someone like Lucian Freud. When you look at his etchings, prints, and paintings, he depicts the human form in an un-idealised way – wobbles and wrinkles aplenty."

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Rowan Pelling



    "I once worked at Private Eye, a long time ago, back in the days of Lonely Hearts, when people used to look for their beloved by placing an ad in a magazine instead of swiping right on Tinder, and the lady who was in charge of that told me that the Lonely Heart that had got the most responses ever was a woman who had just put, 'Lady doctor who likes laughing in bed'."



    Cosmo Landesman



    "Laughter is the great antidote of anxiety. People take themselves far too seriously. There's nothing better than being in bed with someone who gets the joke, and if things go wrong they can laugh at it."

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Rowan Pelling



    "How can we not mention the bed ? For me it's an incredible storyteller's fantasia. I think dreams are made of this bed – what happened on it? It was commissioned for this grand house on the Champs Elysees by one of the most famous of 19th century French courtesans and it ended up in a grand brothel frequented by Toulouse-Lautrec. I mean, what tales has that bed seen? It's extraordinary! And it is a magnificent work of art in itself. I love the fact that it is just so over the top. Good taste is always meant to be restrained but I think that sometimes more is more!"



     



    Pamela Anderson



    "I want to go lie on it!"

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Pamela Anderson loved the table – a painted plywood replica once owned by Catherine the Great.

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Robin Cawdron-Stewart with Pavel Tchelitchew's Bathers, his favourite artwork in the sale.

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Rowan Pelling



    "In his famous book about the nude, Kenneth Clark said it doesn't matter how abstract the nude is, it should still have something that rouses you – it should be erotic in some way. And walking around this exhibition, I have a visceral reaction to some of these works. One of the curious things in this age is that we're still quite uncertain about eroticising the male body – we see less of that, certainly in the way our news trade operates."



    Rowan Pelling with her favourite piece in the sale, a Roman marble torso of Pan.  

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Cosmo Landesman



    "This week we have the new 50 Shades of Whatever on at the cinema. To someone of my generation, the idea that S&M would be a mainstream, middle-of-the-road activity is unbelievable! It's amazing what people have embraced now. So it makes you wonder, what is going to be the S&M in 10 or 15 years? What boundaries will we have left to push? What will artists have to push? What will an artist have to show us that will make us say: "Oh my god, look at that!"

  • Photo: Ambra Vernuccio/Sotheby's
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    Debbie Harry with Lucian Freud's Man Posing, 1985.

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