Curvy pin-up girls in tight two-pieces, tanned supermodels in bikinis and acting icons who also sunbathed topless on the Côte d'Azur are celebrated in the BikiniARTmuseum as heroines of the liberation of the female body from the conservative body images of the post-war period.In order to understand that the depiction of "hot girls" in bikinis is not necessarily based on the degradation of the female body into a sex object, a look at the development of swimwear is essential.
The history of swimwear is closely linked to swimming. Until well into the 20th century, the display of the female body was considered indecent, lewd and sexist. Women had to expect denunciation and punishment if they violated prescribed dress codes. A well-known example is the Australian swimming icon Annette Kellerman, who even ended up in prison on Boston beach in 1908 for wearing a skin-tight swimming suit. Through the tireless efforts of Kellerman and other competitive swimmers, the heavy, long-cut swimsuits were gradually replaced by more comfortable and revealing swimwear.
A new body image emerged with the sexual revolution in the late 1960s, which found expression in swimwear in the final establishment of the bikini among the general population. The two-piece, designed by Louis Réard in 1946, was only freed from its disreputable, dirty image over the decades and became a symbol of a new age through modern-minded, self-confident wearers.
Today, the instrumentalisation of women in bikinis as product advertisements is the main reason why the voices of critics are growing louder, who consider such depictions to be sexist and call for an increasing covering of naked skin. To draw a line between the liberation and objectification of women seems difficult at first. Ultimately, however, it is the woman's decision alone whether and to what extent she shows her body while bathing.
In keeping with the motto of International Museum Day 2020 "The Museum for All - Museums for Diversity and Inclusion", the BikiniARTmuseum would like to encourage women of all ages, figures and skin colours to be "courageous" and to break away from conventional ideals of beauty. Because in addition to models with the "ideal bikini figure" propagated in the media, the world's first museum of bathing culture and swimwear also pays tribute to women with mastectomies, disabilities or overweight, thus revealing just how diverse beauty can be. Regardless of what she wears when bathing or what size of dress she has, every woman is at her most beautiful when she enjoys the cool water in summer while bathing and radiates from within because she is satisfied with herself.