The artist Tracey Emin has praised Gustave Courbet’s controversial painting The Origin of the World (1866) as part of an Instagram lockdown project launched by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris called "A Week With".
For the project, artists choose a different work every day over a week drawn from the museum's collection. Emin says that Courbet’s work, which focuses on a woman’s genitals, is “so sexy… I have been in a lot of trouble for loving this work. I even once said there isn’t a heterosexual man in the world that doesn’t want to lay his head down there, many women too… this painting is all about female strength.”
Her selection also includes Théophile Alexandre Steinlen’s Black Cat Rolled in a Ball on a Sofa (1920) because it reminds Emin, known for her installation My Bed (1998), of her late cat Docket who “died peacefully with dignity on my lap, with his little head in my hands”. Another favourite, also by Steinlen (Study of a Woman sat on a Man’s Knee) is one of the best “sex drawings” Emin has ever seen. “Frenzied, drunk, intoxicating… it looks good from every angle. Like they are fucking on the floor. Unapologetic with no boundaries. That’s how people should make love, and draw,” Emin writes.
Other participants in the social media project include the South African artist Marlene Dumas who last month chose works by Félix Vallotton (The Ball, 1899), Winslow Homer (Summer Night, 1890) and Rose Bonheur (Ploughing oxes in the Nivernais,1849). Meanwhile, the US artist Glenn Ligon takes the reins this week.
Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director of London’s Serpentine Galleries, chose Georges Seurat’s Model, Front View (1887) as one of his seven works. “The three poseuse paintings by Seurat that are displayed together at the Musée d’Orsay are very important to me. [Art critic Félix] Fénéon always kept this little painting in his pocket, because he loathed the ugly art that you might find in a budget hotel room,” Obrist says.
The Musée d’Orsay’s Instagram has more than one million followers. In February, the museum appointed an Instagram artist-in-residence. Donatien Grau, the museum’s head of contemporary programmes, says: "It opens up the discussion on the collections and offers many ways of engaging with them, each very personal and new."