It turns out that despite ourselves, even the most urbane and politically correct audience can still love a beauty pageant.Â The sequence of young women in swimsuits could not be more easy on the eye
It is obvious what heterosexual men might get from this. But women too were enjoying it. There were no shortage of volunteers to strip off, while their fully clothed sisters looked on with vicarious pleasure.
But context is everything. Each of us knew this was a performance by a feminist artist, Sarah Maple, and a feminist curator, Beverley Knowles. So that was okay.
Also, the swimsuit, sashes, and tiaras were balanced up by the fate of each Miss America. After parading past the extensive glass windows of La Scatola, they went to stand facing a wall.
Here they reminded the viewer of children in disgrace. It was as if they had blown their moment in the limelight by using their platform to make an off beam comment about the recession or the war.
About 20 women took part, only coming to life every five minutes when a burst of Sinatra or maybe Bert Parks cut through the silence and then cut out with just as much abruptness.
When the music played and the girls were up, it was all eyes in their direction. The rest of the time they were to be seen and not heard. The choreography was impersonal and brutal.
As the title of the piece and a corresponding handout suggests, to be crowned Miss America or Miss World entails a year of hard work. Just like artists, their levels of dilligence might surprise the public.
Gallery director Valentina Fois is not sure how this glass box of a space was used before. But last night it was not hard to imagine a car showroom, with bonnets for the girls to drape themselves over.
Clearly we have come a certain distance since the time men crooned about beauty queens and no car ad was complete without a dolly bird. But not so far we could not recognise our role in this piece.