Widely regarded as one of the most influential painters working today, Dumas probes the most controversial issues facing contemporary society, such as questions of gender, race, sexuality, and economic inequality through her focus on the human figure. Painted in 1999, Male Stripper is a seminal example from her oeuvre. By depicting a male stripper, Dumas totally reverses the history of canonical western art in which male artists depict female nudes, a controversial subject matter that is typical of her brave stance towards the history of art and reflective of her importance within it. The figure here is shown with his face hidden, stripped of identity and presented full frontal for the viewer. Dumas's interest in corporality, desire and eroticism is reminiscent of Francis Bacon, to whom she is often compared and whose work was shown together at Turin's Castello di Rivoli in 1996. Indeed, her approach to the subject, painterly technique and characteristic palette of grays, blues and reds in the current lot is particularly similar to Bacon's Crouching Nude (1959). The balanced colouring of warm reds and cool blues in Male Stripper similarly draws the viewer towards the canvas, only to find the image dissolving in the painterly traces of her brushstrokes which are seemingly applied with broad, sweeping gestures. The brushwork has a sensitivity that, despite the non-naturalistic colours and subject, verges on the brink of sensuality. This contrast with subject matter is clearly ambiguous and problematic, reflecting Dumas's background in psychology which she studied in the Netherlands in the 1970s and which, of course, informed her works that can be seen as psychological portraits. By eliminating the background and zooming in on the body, she offers viewers a powerful moment of disturbing sexual encounter. As with all of her work, this has been carefully orchestrated, forcing the spectator to confront their own prejudices and beliefs, as Dumas said: 'I use all the cheap tricks of attracting attention: eyes looking at you, sexual parts exposed or deliberately covered. The primitive pull of recognition. The image as prostitute. You are forced to say yes or no.' (The artist quoted in I. Bonacossa, 'Further than the 'I' Can See', Marlene Dumas, London, 2009, p. 169).