Earthly Delights


Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Odile and Odette I, 2005–06, Chromogenic development print, Print: 63 ½ x 49 in. (161.3 x 124.5 cm); framed: 70 x 55 ¾ in. (178 x 141.5 cm), Edition 3 of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof Photo: © The artist/DACS, London/Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai Collection of Margot and George Greig


Earthly Delights brings together the work of eight artists who share a belief in the critical power of beauty. Drawn primarily from the MCA’s permanent collection, and made between 1949 and 2006, the paintings, sculptures, and installations in this exhibition embrace the decorative in defiance of prevailing artistic trends. By reveling in pleasure, exploring private moments, and exuding sensuality, these works challenge the primacy of rationality and logic in modernism.

As they explore the connections among art, decoration, and design, the artists in Earthly Delights insist on the intrinsic value of beauty by engaging with social issues. Lynda Benglis’s and Carol Bove’s sculptures address the exclusion of women from the history of minimalism. Works by Nick Cave and Yinka Shonibare, MBE, delve into gender and racial politics and the legacy of colonialism, as well as the histories of performance, music, and dance. Paintings and installations by Balthus, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, and Lari Pittman question taboos related to sexuality.

Irreverent and playful, this eclectic group of artists subvert the conservatism of minimalism and other twentieth-century movements that eschewed making art in pursuit of pleasure. Earthly Delights reveals the way beauty can be used as a conceptual tool.

Earthly Delights includes works by Balthus, Lynda Benglis, Carol Bove, Nick Cave, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lari Pittman, and Yinka Shonibare, MBE.

This exhibition is curated by Abigail Winograd, Marjorie Susman Curatorial Fellow.