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The Great Incident: the revolt rumbles at the Louvre and exposes men

Non-dress attire required.

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The Great Incident: the revolt rumbles at the Louvre and exposes men

Non-dress attire required. At the Louvre, the new instructions are formal, all male visitors must walk the sumptuous aisles of the museum in their simplest attire. Women and children are exempt. The album signed Zelba, Le Grand incident, opens with this strange public. A comedy of the ninth art? Last April, didn't the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon offer a visit exclusively reserved for naturists? “Our idea is to question the question of the body in space, to see how a body interacts with other bodies,” explained the cultural institution.

In Le Grand incident, co-published by Futuropolis and the Louvre, the subject differs. In the form of a burlesque fable, the book brilliantly and lightly tackles the questions of the place of women in society, the sexualization of the female body in art and street harassment. It features Teresa, a cleaning lady at the Louvre, the only person who knows how to listen to the annoyed confessions of naked female models. The three graces, Atalanta, Psyche...all these sculptures are tired of the lustful looks and inappropriate gestures of essentially male visitors. When the confidant tries to talk to management about it, she will be fired. Fortunately, she finds an ally in Nadir, a part-time sociology student who assists her in her task. Faced with the inflexibility of the management, the works rebel and decide to disappear until they win their case. The condition of their return? Let the men visiting the museum be completely naked.

With humor and kindness, the German author Zelba touches on the delicate question of the male gaze on women, particularly when the latter becomes embarrassing or even degrading. In The Great Incident, the statement does not incriminate men as a whole, it only calls out men who behave incongruously towards women. Actions that the author condemns with hindsight and humor, pitting women of character against the miscreants, inclined to fight to change the situation. Sculptures and models of master paintings know what they are talking about, they have survived the centuries... And their observation is clear. Certain behaviors have not changed since then. We should always listen to what art has to tell us. The fable which interweaves reflection, creativity and fantasy lends itself to encouraging our listening.

And the tasty graphics imbued with finesse of the album also serves this offbeat approach masterfully. The characters, sometimes caricatural, sometimes more realistic, embody for our greatest pleasure this bridge between art, the real world, burlesque and society. As for the works represented, the author pays them a beautiful tribute, crunching them with virtuosity with her carnal line to give them a beautiful depth.

“This plate corresponds to the last evening before the big incident before the sculptures and the naked women in master paintings hide from the gaze of visitors. Nadir must bring, to the Three Graces, the message from his friend Teresa that the management sent back, deaf to his requests.

He is uncomfortable among these inanimate naked women to whom he must speak. To illustrate this discomfort, I have exploded the usual reading direction. We begin the reading at the top in the middle, with Nadir's gaze we pass to the left, we follow him in his wandering at the top right, we catch Psyche's gaze and towards the end of the page Nadir finally decides to speak to them despite its ridiculous size.

This sequence is located in a place in the Louvre that I really like: the rooms which house French sculpture from the late 18th and mid-19th centuries. These are the sculptures that I chose to talk about the condition of women in society. My initial idea is to evoke the sexualization of the female body in art and in society. The Louvre is perfect for this.

The works that I represent in this plate play an important role in the book. The Toilet of Atalante by Pradier, in the background on the left, is the very first sculpture to be manhandled by three high school students who touch her breasts while making fun of her nudity... This may seem anecdotal, but behind these gestures are already taking shape the foundations of a disrespect towards women. I chose Atalanta for this scene because the sculpture is at eye level in a curled up position, as if vulnerable.

In the foreground, abandoned Psyche, by Augustin Pajou with her imploring gaze, is as if offered on a platter. When I entered this room for the first time, I was struck by this statue perched high on its base representing the only naked woman in the middle of dressed men.

Finally, the Three Graces, illustrating the cover of the book, represent in mythology the ideal woman, purity, beauty, creativity. Known for their benevolence, I found it funny to take them as the instigators of the revolt, as a little snub.

Graphically, I juggle between brush and pen to play on depths and volumes. I also wanted to play on a false duotone: black and red illustrate the daytime scenes, black and blue the nighttime sequences. And I reserve the dazzling colors for the masterpieces that I want to reproduce.”

The Great Incident, Zelba, Futuropolis/ Le Louvre éditions, 23.50 euros.

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