Body as Art

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On February 25, 1976, hundreds of fans gathered at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Although art is enjoyed by many, these fans came to gaze at three of the biggest names in bodybuilding at that time, Frank Zane, Ed Corney, and Arnold Schwarzenegger who had one his final Mr. Olympia (until his controversial return 4 years later) the previous year.

The exposition was called ‘Articulate Muscle: Body as Art’ and it featured all three bodybuilders posing on a rotating platform one after the other. The awe’s and oh’s of bodybuilding enthusiasts were joined by the scrutiny of various art critiques. One of the goals with this exposition, let’s call it the secondary goal, was to demonstrate bodybuilding as a form of art and to portray its resemblance to the Greek ideal, which was preached by the Weiders and Schwarzenegger himself.

Although the majority of fans were pleased by the display of muscle and posing, and certain art critics agreed that the bodies in display emulated a long-tradition of statuary, others were not so pleased. One critic in particular was quoted saying: “There is a saying that a man who is self-educated has had the disadvantage of having a very ignorant teacher. I must admit if you are a work of art, you have had the disadvantage of having a bad art teacher because to me, your poses are the personification of 19th century camp. I do not find it beautiful.” (Fair, 2015)

Although this quote put a damper one the entire Greek ideal personification, the primary goal was attained regardless. The main justification for the exposition was a means of funding the cult classic docudrama ‘Pumping Iron.’ Having finished filming and editing, Charles Gaines and George Butler found themselves in tremendous debt, unable to release their hard labour. However, thanks to the success of ‘Articulate Body’ we are able to enjoy such a remarkable film.

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