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Chaussée 36 : Eros & Photography : Part 1 – Behind Desire


Blind, insatiable, violent, voluptuous, enigmatic, imaginary, obscene, transgressive, elusive desire is part of a rich philosophical tradition that has, in turn, been despised and adored so much so that it touches the essence of our being. Man is a “watchful desire” according to André Comte-Sponville. Unable to look steadily at one’s own desire, to predict its appearance or to grasp its meaning seems a wasted effort. This subjectivity inherent in desire has given rise to multiple artistic interpretations in the medium of photography. Lascivious, fragmented, veiled, blurred, passionate, fantasized bodies: innumerable are the faces of Eros.

Eroticism, however, has not found itself the subject of extensive research in the history of photography. Worse yet, it is often confused with nudity, sex, and pornography. What makes eroticism so special? In a digital commercial world marked by the omnipresence of pornography, what value does eroticism have?

In last year’s group exhibition “Women on View – Aesthetics of Desire in Advertising”, Chaussée 36 took a critical look at the commercial and erotic instrumentalization of wom- en’s bodies in advertising. At present, further questions are discussed through a critical standpoint by moving from a conception of eroticism marked by patriarchy to one in which the woman must no longer be observed as a passive object of desire but as the active subject of her own erotic fantasies.

The group exhibition “Behind Desire” seeks to present eroticism, the Art of Desire, and to examine its different facets in artistic photography. The first installment in the EROS & PHOTOGRAPHY exhibition series, “Behind Desire” awakens an awareness of the diverse, often complex, yet ever powerful meaning of eroticism.

Eroticism is not sex. It originates and goes far beyond the mere physical relationship.

On this occasion, a part of the CHAUSSEE 36 Collection specializing in nude and erotic photography will be shown for the first time along with renowned photographers such as Nobuy- oshi Araki, Gilles Berquet, Daido Moriyama, Herb Ritts and Jeanloup Sieff. Unpublished atypical large-format polaroids by Lucien Clergue will be unveiled to the public.

The presentation is completed by a selection of contemporary photographers such as Renaud de Gambs, Thomas Hodges and Gérard Musy as well as Eva Ionesco, Mona Kuhn and Ellen von Unwerth, highlighting the perspective of women.

Among them, the works of the three winners of the competition on Eroticism in Photography organized by CHAUSSEE 36 are to be discovered during the exhibition.

“Movement Towards the Other” (Simone de Beauvoir), “Art of Desiring and to Make Oneself Desired”, (André Comte-Sponville), “Triumph of Dreams Over Nature” (Emmanuelle Arsan), “Approval of Life Even in Death” (Georges Bataille) – How to visually express eroticism, a concept with multiple definitions?

More than 60 years after the Surrealist exhibition “Eros” at the Daniel Cordier Gallery (Paris, 1959), a new participatory journey is offered, a labyrinth through the photographic worlds of Eros.

This exhibition does not lift a veil on eroticism by illuminating it only under an aesthetic as- pect of the theme, but allows the visitor place for an encounter with his own Eros, beyond gender and sexual orientation through a diversity of situations which generate or follow de- sire.

“Finally, when two beings embrace, they do not know what they are doing; they do not know what they want; they do not know what they’re looking for; they do not know what they find.” (Paul Ricoeur, “Sexuality: the Wonder, the Wandering, the Enigma”, History and Truth, 1955)


Exhibited Artists:

Laure Albin Guillot, Nobuyoshi Araki, Aneta Bartos, Gilles Berquet, Pierre Boucher, Jean- Christian Bourcart, Lucien Clergue, Dahmane, De Gambs, Natalia Dymkowski, Evangeline, Kostis Fokas, René Groebli, Heinz Hajek-Halke, Thomas Hodges, Eva Ionesco, Jean-François Jonvelle, Alexandra Kinevskaya, Mona Kuhn, Maria La Sangre, Will McBride, Daido Moriyama, Gérard Musy, David Pisani, Herb Ritts, Albert Rudomine, Felicia Scheuerecker, Kishin Shinoyama, Jeanloup Sieff, Tono Stano, Karin Székessy, Miriam Tölke, Arthur Tress, Ivo von Renner, Ellen von Unwerth

An exhibition curated by Mathilde Leroy.


A catalogue will be published at the occasion of the exhibition (limited edition of 500 copies, English), including a preface by Claire Maingon, Lecturer in Contemporary Art History, as well as essays by Kynlore and Julianne Sibiski, addressing the notion of eroticism through their penetrating words. A selection of quotes taken from specialized and erotic literature is presented, echoing the photographs in the exhibition.


Eros & Photography : Part 1 – Behind Desire

16.10.2020 – 23.01.2021

Chaussée 36

Chausseestr. 36

10115 Berlin

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