After an inspection by the Met's obscene publications unit, the photograph of a nude, heavily made-up Brooke Shields, at age 10, has been removed from an exhibition at Tate Modern.
A day before the Pop Life show opens to the public, the photograph, which was taken in 1975 by Gary Gross but used in a work by modern provocateur Richard Prince, was taken down after police warned it could break obscenity laws. The exhibition's accompanying catalogue has also been withdrawn from sale — those early buyers have something of a collector's item on their hands now.
The image is widely available online (best be careful about the words you put into Google, mind), but its appearance in the gallery will be restricted to those few who went to the private view or the press show — the Guardian's Adrian Searle composed a piece of purple prose extolling its virtues. Despite being shown in New York in 2007 and Paris earlier this year with minimal fuss, the piece has exercised not only the authorities but the usual bloviators who tailor their opinions to Middle England: the Mail's Stephen Glover makes the bizarre attempt to link the story to Roman Polanski's arrest and damn the whole cultural scene in the process. The story is reminiscent of a case in Australia a couple of years ago, when an exhibition including nude photos of a 13-year old girl by Bill Henson led to such a national scandal that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called the images "revolting"; the gallery ended up in court. No word from No.10 yet, but now that they're absolved of the need to please The Sun, they might take a bolder stance and defend artistic expression. Or perhaps not.
Still, Tate Modern will be pleased about the controversy if it distracts people from the show's mixed reception: "a deeply superficial show, full of glitz and gloss", was the verdict in one of several critical reviews.
Image by Simone LomoLove!