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Adel Abdessemed makes sculpture of nude Angela Merkel

Marble work, which goes on show in Lyon this week, is based on a photograph when the German chancellor was a member of the Free German Youth movement

Adel Abdessemed, Is Beautiful (2017-18) Adagp, Paris, 2018

The Paris-based, Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed has made a Carrara marble sculpture of a young, nude Angela Merkel. Titled Is Beautiful (2017-18), the work is going on display in his exhibition L'Antidote' at the MAC Lyon (9 March-8 July), southern France.

Conceived in the classical style of Antonio Canova's Three Graces, the larger-than-life-size sculpture featuring the German chancellor on the left is based on a photograph taken in former East Germany (GDR) when Merkel was a member of the Free German Youth movement, which organised summer camps for 14-25 year olds. The picture of Merkel and two friends walking on a beach, at a time when naturism was popular in the GDR, was republished in Vanity Fair in February 2015 during Germany's electoral campaign as Merkel was running for a third term.

Abdessemed has isolated the three figures (in the photograph, they are strolling in front of the sea) and portrayed the world's most powerful female politician as a smiling, carefree youngster, a light spring in her step amidst female camaraderie. Abdessemed first made drawings based on the photograph before mastering the frozen movements of the girls' gait.

The rendition of Merkel recalls how Abdessemed made an ivory sculpture, Cri (2012), of Kim Phuc, the young girl fleeing a napalm attack in Nick Ut's 1972 photograph for AP.

Other works in L'Antidote include 'Shams' (2013), a vast clay installation of forced labourers, soldiers and weaponry that occupies all of the third floor and a sculpture of a bar in Lyon that Abdessemed frequented as a student at the city's fine art academy.