Blame the panda cam: Why Art F City made a naked-artist panda calendar

Pandas. Artists. Naked. All in one handy calendar produced by @artfcity

Pandas. Artists. Nudity. Sometimes, something is so wrong, it oughta be right.

New York-based art blog Art F City (AFC) gathers this perfect trifecta of absurdity into a handy tool the art world can use all year long: the first-ever naked-artist panda calendar.

Titled "Artists as Pandas in the Nude," the calendar will be available for purchase starting Tuesday morning as part of AFC's annual fundraiser to help keep the popular contemporary art blog running. For a donation of $50, donors receive a copy of the calendar. For $250, they get a calendar and a photographic print of one of the images from the calendar, snapped by New York artist Rachel Stern

"And if you want to subscribe, you can get the calendar, along with one print each month for $250 a month," says Paddy Johnson, AFC's founder and editor. "There are lots of different ways to donate."

The calendar is artsy from top to bottom(s). It comes stocked with important art dates, such as the opening of the Venice Biennale in Italy. Its aesthetics were designed by an artist: that'd be Stern, who took the pictures and designed the elaborate sets. And the models are all artists, with a few art writers in the mix.

The series features pioneering feminist performance artist Martha Wilson decked out in body paint, the digital artist Rollin Leonard rocking a plastic clam shell about the nether regions, and Nayland Blake, who conceived the sumptuous gingerbread house sculpture at the Hammer Museum this past spring. For his shoot, Blake is portrayed on a Goth/S&M/baroque set bearing chains, black candles and jacquard wallpaper. (Naughty panda!)

AFC's Johnson (who also appears in the calendar, along with the rest of the site's contributors, amid a fall-of-Rome-style set) says the idea for a panda calendar emerged out of the chaos of the federal government shutdown of 2013. 

Among the many government functions affected by the funding gap, "there were all these media stories about how the National Zoo's panda cam had gone dark," Johnson says. "The whole thing was so absurd, so we decided to livestream ourselves blogging while dressed like pandas. We did panda aerobics. We did a collage drawing session. I spent one night working on a budget until 10 p.m. with my panda hat on."

That spawned the idea of doing a calendar, which turned into a months-long collaboration between Johnson and Stern.

"She has a mastery for set-making and that really appealed to me," Johnson says of Stern. "A lot of the sets were made out of cardboard print-outs of things. She likes to say, 'If you can dream it, you can print it on cardboard.'"

The sets are indeed a wonder to behold, from a blood-red bordello with candelabra and roses, to an architectural display of Doric columns strewn about in a mound of classical decay.

Between the calendar and all the panda activity on the AFC site, including roundups of panda GIFs, Johnson says the whole panda thing has gotten a bit out of control. On a recent trip to Abu Dhabi she says she found herself purchasing a panda neck pillow.

"I think I've gotten a bit obsessed," she says. "It's a project we've been working on for a very long time."

Art F City's panda calendar will be available online for a donation of $50 starting Tuesday at 7 a.m. PST/10 a.m. ET, at artfcity.com/panda-calendar.

Find me on the Twitterz @cmonstah. Get regular panda updates from Paddy Johnson @artfcity.

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