Nil Yalter: Le Chevalier d’Éon (1978)

Watch the artist’s pioneering film on gender fluidity, exclusively available on artreview.com through 30 July


Nil Yalter’s Le Chevalier d'Éon (1978) is made available by the artist and Galerist, Istanbul, to coincide with the film’s presentation as part of Art Basel’s Features sector (through Sunday 17 June 2018). Published exclusively on artreview.com, the video will be available to view through 1 July only. 


“Having been an honest man, a zealous citizen, and a brave soldier all my life, I triumph in being a woman and in being able to be cited forever amongst those many women who have proved that the qualities and virtues of which men are so proud have not been denied to those of my sex,” a man voiceover declares at the end of Nil Yalter’s Le Chevalier d’Eon. Shot with a Portapack in 1978 and only recently digitised, this is arguably the first video addressing gender fluidity by an artist from the Middle East. The Chevalier d’Éon (1728–1810) was a French diplomat, soldier and spy, and the first openly-transvestite man to enjoy public recognition in Europe. In this 12-minute video, we witness this anonymous person’s transition into a woman, dramatised by a mirroring effect that fractures and multiplies her image to the soundtrack of Baroque music by Domenico Scarlatti.

Read our feature on the artist, from the April 2017 issue of ArtReview