Disclaimer: The following post contains nudity.
There are some things you don’t really notice about art galleries until you’re standing in one completely naked. When I visited the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne with a group of nudists on Saturday evening, I discovered that the lighting conditions, for one, are optimized for detailed viewing of every nook and cranny. Then there’s the temperature, kept low to conserve the art, but not ideal for preserving one’s natural body heat. But hey, at least indoors you don’t have to worry about sunburn or mosquito bites.
“Many people probably discover naturism on a nude beach abroad on a summer holiday and so associate it with sunbathing and skinny dipping,” says Philip Baker, the treasurer of the Eastbourne Naturist Swim Club, who organized the event in collaboration with British Naturism.
“In fact, naturists love to do the same things that everyone else does, but prefer to be naked,“ Baker explains. Visiting an art gallery was a natural choice for an activity, he says, as it’s “simply something a lot of people do.”
A determinedly unfazed gallery assistant named Michael, wearing a David Bowie T-shirt and jeans, welcomed a group of around 30 people to the space. Looking me straight in the eyes, he tells me it’s the first time he’s ever seen a group of naturists (i.e., nudists), but adds that he’s “open-minded.”
Not so for some of the other galleries Baker approached about the crawl, including Tate Britain, which ignored several requests to organize a naturist visit to its “All Too Human” exhibition. The Towner’s director, Joe Hill, however, was all ears.
“We thought it was a great idea,” Hill says, “as it’s important to us that the gallery is a safe space for all communities and that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy our exhibitions.”