At a modern gallery no less. Although in fairness it did take some work:
Tate Modern gallery has withdrawn a controversial photograph of Brooke Shields following a visit by police, amid concerns it could be in breach of child pornography laws.
The provocative picture by New York artist Richard Prince shows Shields standing naked in a bathtub, with a heavily made-up face and oiled torso. Children’s campaigners had condemned the Tate for including the picture in their latest exhibition, describing it as a “magnet” for paedophiles.
So controversial is the photograph, called Spiritual America, that it was hung in its own room behind a closed door bearing a warning that the work was “challenging”. However, visitors to a preview showing yesterday found the room closed.
The Tate chose to include the picture in the Pop Life: Art In A Material World after consulting lawyers. It has been exhibited in the US before but never in Britain. A spokesman said: “The exhibit is temporarily closed. We are in discussions with police.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Officers from the Obscene Publications Unit met with staff at the Tate Modern regarding an image. The officers have specialist experience in this field and are keen to work with gallery management to ensure that they do not inadvertently break the law or cause any offence to their visitors.”
Inadvertently cause any offence to their visitors? Inadvertently? With this picture? No, I am not linking to the whole thing – just the head shot, which is sick enough without needing to show her “oiled torso”. The original picture is available online if you know how to search for it. Tell me, if you do see it, whether you think it’s possible to claim you didn’t know it might be considered (what’s the expression people use all the time?) “offensive to some”.
And what’s worse, the picture was “commissioned by Shields’ mother, who was intent on turning her little girl into a child star”. She was 10 years old at the time.
I am a pretty extreme free-speecher. I believe in the First Amendment, and I wish it applied in Canada as well. But even I think there ought to be limits: You shouldn’t be allowed freely to defame other people, to incite violence, or to distribute naked images of little kids. Calling those pictures “challenging” “art” isn’t enough to get you off the hook.by