Open - New staging for the restart of the 1st International Museum of Swimwear and Bathing Culture: nailed to the cross in a stone-age fur bikini, according to the provocative publicity photograph by British photographer Terry O`Neill for the 1966 film "One Million Years B.C.", starring US actress Raquel Welch. However, the movie poster was not released. Conservative moral codes and strict censorship laws prevented a "crucified" actress at the time. It wasn't until years later that the artwork reached the public and still caused quite a stir. Raquel Welch, who constantly applied for serious acting jobs, was reduced to nothing but her body in the movie metropolis of Hollywood. Terry O'Neill's progressive design included criticism of the American film production machinery as early as 1966. As such, "Raquel Welch On The Cross" is arguably the first known "#MeToo" artwork. One of the few signed original prints is now moving into the BikiniARTmuseum in Bad Rappenau, staged for International Women's Day on 08 March 2021.
Crucifixion, a method of execution popularised by the Phoenicians around 1000 BC, is characterised above all by a particularly slow and cruel dying process and was intended to serve as a deterrent. To build a bridge from the cause of death of Jesus Christ to the role of women in the film industry seems abstruse at first. The fact that in a metaphorical sense one can certainly speak of a "crucifixion" of many actresses is illustrated by the advertising photograph produced in 1966 for the British film production "One Million Years B.C.".
In bikini on the cross, too provocative for the 1960s
The idea for the shots came about in a conversation between actress Raquel Welch and photographer Terry O'Neill. Welch expressed concern about being "crucified" by the press for her performance in said 1966 fantasy film. In it, the actress wore a Stone Age-looking fur bikini designed by award-winning costume designer Carl Toms. Although the strict censorship laws in the film industry had almost been overcome by this time, the display of the unclothed female body still represented a provocation. Inspired by this metaphor, O'Neill convinced "20thFox Film Studios" to erect a colossal cross and have Welch pose on it in a bikini. After the negatives were developed, Welch and O'Neill thought the shots were successful, yet both feared that their message would be misunderstood. Ultimately, Welch and O'Neill decided against publication because of this. It was not until 30 years later that the editor of the London "Sunday Times Magazine" discovered the photographs in O'Neill's studio and decided to publish them together with the artist.
Current message in an old photograph: "Crucified" women in Hollywood
55 years after the photograph was taken, the message it conveys seems more relevant than ever: Raquel Welch's biography is representative of the fate of many prominent women whose careers were marked by objectification and abuse of power. Despite her great acting and comedic talent, Welch suffered throughout her life from being both stigmatized and reduced to her appearance by the media. The situation in the film business today seems to have improved only to a limited extent, if at all. Unrealistic ideals of beauty and the pressure to succeed are still in vogue and inextricably interwoven with a career in the film business.
Feminist Art on International Women's Day 2021 at the BikiniARTmuseum
Similar to death on the cross, the dissolution of hierarchical structures is slow and tenacious. For young women in particular, the symbolically crucified Raquel Welch therefore represents a piece of feminist art. Movements such as #MeToo have not least created a new awareness of the abuse of power and a self-determined approach to one's own body.
Fittingly for International Women's Day on 08 March 2021, the BikiniARTmuseum's exhibition aims to shine a light on women's long triumph against conservative morals and sexism. Photographer Terry O'Neill, who passed away in 2019, signed only a few copies of the Crucifixion edition. One of those original copies is now on display in the Woman Power section of the world's first and only museum of swimwear and bathing culture, and an additional focal point for a lively discussion. The Woman Power area of the museum sees itself as a forum for promoting constructive discourse around the socially relevant topics of feminism, liberation versus sexism, and body positivity, and supports the dissemination of a diverse body image.
Alexandra Regiert, Director Forum Liberation against Sexism BikiniARTmuseum