Frieze ‘Alt Feminisms’ Panel Discussion & Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics

frieze discussion

by Melissa Budasz for ArtVerve, at Frieze London 2017

What a way to kick start Frieze London – an hour and half from opening, Alison Gingeras chairs a panel of feminist practitioners whose careers have spanned over 40 years – Renate Bertlmann, Penny Slinger, Marilyn Minter and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Their art initially had censorship restrictions, cut-off from mainstream feminism from the 1960s and has taken until this Millennium to re-present a critical appraisal and celebration of their practices. They discussed politics, repression, pornography and alternative histories.

Austrian artist, Renate Bertlmann (b 1943, Vienna) has often used her body as a medium which includes painting, sculpture, photography and performance to explore themes that confronts social stereotypes assigned to the masculine/feminine, using fetishistic objects for props that include vibrators, condoms and dummies.

Renate Bertlmann Cactus (1999) & Tender Touchers (1978) courtesy Richard Saltoun, S7, Frieze London


Like Bertlmann, Californian based author and artist Penny Slinger (b 1947, London) chooses to be her own muse using photography and casts of her body throughout her practice, investigating how a woman is seen and how she sees herself, often expressing states of consciousness that investigate psychological and sensual worlds of her awakening self.

Penny Slinger Read My Lips (1973) & Bride’s Book (1973) courtesy Blum & Poe, S1, Frieze London


New York artist Marilyn Minter (b 1948, Shreveport) explores what she calls the ‘pathology of glamour’ in close-up and often cropped photos and paintings of sexual acts laced with cosmetics and food, subverting notions of desire within popular culture with all its trappings of gender and representation. Minter uses pornography as her subject matter and in more recent work, her paintings reveal intimate moments from women’s private lives.

Marilyn Minter Ginger (2016) & Porn Grid 2 (1989) courtesy Baldwin Gallery, Regen Projects & Salon 94, S6, Frieze London


UK artist, Cosey Fanni Tutti (b 1951, Hull) has worked by the ethos, ‘My life is my art, my art is my life’ in her pornographic modelling and in her role as a member of the band Throbbing Gristle. For two years she worked on the ‘Prostitution’ project in which she created a revealing exhibition about the porn and sex industry. At the ICA in London, Tutti used her used tampons and soiled nappies from Mary Kelly’s work which aroused hysterical reactions from the media. Tutti’s work questions the objectification of women, allowing a freedom of expression in her performances.

Cosey Fanni Tutti Women’s Roll, 1976 © Art Action A.I.R. Gallery, London & Cover of Cosey Fanni Tutti, Art, Sex, Music (Faber, 2017)


Frieze London, Regent’s Park, runs until 8 October 2017