Jewish American artist Spencer Tunick announced Wednesday that he plans to produce an installation of nude figures at the Dead Sea this year, after being inspired by the region’s beauty and its everincreasing environmental deterioration due to evaporation.

The concept, called “Naked Sea,” launched a campaign on the fundraising website Kickstarter that will run through June 6 and aims to raise $60,000 to finance the installation, an amount which, according to the rules of the fundraising website, must be fully raised by the end date in order to receive any money, a statement from the artist said.

The Kickstarter campaign, launched Wednesday, had raised $1,435 by early Thursday evening.

First envisioned jointly by Tunick and his friend, Tel Aviv resident Ari Fruchter, the project has faced many challenges getting up and running, particularly due to the hypersensitivity toward displays of nude art in this country, Tunick’s statement said.

Tunick has been documenting the nude in public through his photography and video work since 1992, and since 1994 has installed 75 temporary site-specific installations all over the United States and the world, according to his website.

“For the past few years I have been gearing up for this and working with Tunick. My first challenge was to see if the people of Israel were ready to get naked for art. Much to my surprise, the overwhelming answer was yes,” Fruchter said in the statement, noting that a group of five university students started a grassroots campaign to enlist public support, which has attracted thousands since.

“My second challenge was to get financial support from local government, institutions and sponsors,” continued Fruchter, who is himself a patron of the arts as well as a hi-tech executive.

“Due to the nature of this art in this region of the world – this has proven to be most challenging. After years of great effort and consulting with Spencer, I have decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign, to finally bring this project to life in 2011.”

Raising money for art projects in Israel is already difficult, not to mention when there is the added element of the “sensitivities here toward displaying the body in art,” Fruchter told The Jerusalem Post. But he also said that Tunick will be doing his best to keep the creation of the installation as private as possible, “to do it in a way that doesn’t offend people.”

“At these installations around the world there are always people for and against it,” Fruchter said. “He tries to do it in places that are private.

He’s not going to go to the Kotel and do it there.

“We’re not going to do it to disturb people, and we’re not going to do it in a religious neighborhood,” he added, noting that similar installations in very religiously Catholic Mexico City and Venezuela were not a problem at all.

Fruchter emphasized that part of the importance of this project, in addition to creating beautiful artwork, is bringing attention to the need to protect a body of water that is common to three different people – Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians – and that is in serious danger of disappearing in the not-so-distant future.

“[Tunick] told me he loves the Dead Sea form an aesthetic perspective for the reasons we know – it’s the lowest place on the earth, it’s gorgeous, you can float,” Fruchter said, noting that Tunick came to scout out locations for the project a year ago.

“It struck a cord with him and I made him aware of the situation – he didn’t realize how grave it was.”

While Tunick does not intend to make this venture political, “he realizes the value of doing it here because it will bring widespread media attention to the Dead Sea,” Fruchter added.

The Dead Sea is currently one of 28 finalists for the New 7 Wonders of Nature global competition, which is soliciting votes from the global public at www.n7w.com and will announce the winners on November 11.

Tunick aims to complete his project in Israel prior to this date, so that the project runs parallel to the campaign, according to Fruchter.

Tunick produces large-scale installations only two to four times a year, usually at request of an art institution or museum.

He rarely does it for social causes – only for those that he believes in very strongly, Fruchter said.

But two were produced, in France and Switzerland, to support the Greenpeace effort to combat global warming, and most recently Tunick completed an installation in honor of gay rights, in Sydney, Australia.

Both the Dead Sea and Israel are quite important to Tunick, as he has visited many times and both his father and grandmother live here, according to Fruchter.

“This project is dear to me, one that I have dreamed of since my early days as an artist,” said Tunick, in a statement. “I look forward to your support in exposing a part of Israel that has not been seen before and at the same time bring attention to the deteriorating situation of the the Dead Sea.”

Those interested in learning more about the project can visit www.kickstarter.com and search for “Tunick.”

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