Juergen Teller and Xiang Jing dish up desire and detachment in joint show at Lehmann Maupin

Juergen Teller and Xiang Jing dish up desire and detachment in joint show at Lehmann Maupin

Provocative works are nothing new in contemporary art today, but Lehmann Maupin’s intriguing pairing of erotic food photographs by German photographer Juergen Teller and Chinese sculptor Xiang Jing’s unadorned, seemingly disengaged nudes offers a thoughtful perspective on the complexities of sexual desire.

At first, the two appear as diametric opposites. Here, Teller - renowned for his ability to slip between glamourous advertising projects for the likes of Louis Vuitton and Céline to his more gritty creative portraiture of celebrities like Charlotte Rampling and Kate Moss - presents a photograph of a naked Vivienne Westwood reclining on a sofa shown alongside a collection of lasciviously glistening images of chef Antonio Guida’s hedonistic gastronomic creations for the iconic Tuscan Hotel II Pellicano. 

’I get equally excited and have exactly the same feeling if I photograph food or a naked woman,’ explains Teller. ’I didn’t want to use the images of women I’ve photographed because food porn is more abstract and so combines well with Xiang’s foreign sculptures.’

The images include Teller’s favourite: ’Food No. 116’, which shows a plate of food that oozes saturated colour and voluptuous form. ’Juergen’s photographs don’t objectify women. These images may be of food but in the end they are really all about human beings,’ observes the Beijing-based Xiang, who strips away all elements of physical attraction with her series of hairless, expressionless life-like forms that reflect on the vulnerability of Chinese women.

And the inclusion of Westwood’s portrait? ’Ah yes, well that is like a sweetie,’ laughs Teller. ’She sits there like a queen looking over everything. It works somehow even if it shouldn’t.’

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