In the history of art, skin has always been in. What's new, however, is the growing trend among women with high-powered jobs and luxury lifestyles to peel off their designer frocks for art's sake. One person that many of them choose to sit and strip for is Natasha Archdale. The London artist specializes in pen-and-ink renderings of the undraped female form but with a twist. Archdale enhances her drawings with collages made from shredded pieces of the Financial Times, using the salmon-colored newsprint to represent hair, shadows and muscular definition.
The effect is sublime: from a distance, the collages resemble watercolors; up close, you can pick out bits of sentences, headlines and photos. Archdale, 32, calls it "bespoke art that's linked to sex and money." She developed her style 12 years ago while recovering from injuries suffered in a car wreck, and perfected it in her free time while working as a model. She turned professional artist in May 2007 with a successful show at a London gallery, where all 17 of her displayed pieces sold within two hours.
The people who buy her work "tend to be high-profile types," she says successful businesspeople, politicians and serious art collectors. Charging between $18,500 and $27,750 per commission, Archdale researches all of her clients and often personalizes a piece by incorporating FT stories about her subject. These days, she's keeping busy turning gloomy news into a thing of beauty. Julian Parker, head of equities at London International Bank, and his wife Abigail bought one of Archdale's works at her first exhibition. Now Parker has commissioned Archdale to produce a portrait of his wife though he's leaving it up to Abigail to decide just how much she's willing to bare. "We want something cool and sexy, but I don't expect it to be hugely intimate," he says. Many clients likewise opt for demure poses, says Archdale, "but some want poses that are downright raunchy." Call it the shock of the nude.
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