Australian art gallery raided by police; photographer faces possible indecency charge

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Monday, May 26, 2008

The Rosley Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, Australia was raided by police over the weekend following complaints of child pornography. The complaints related to an exhibition of works by photographer Bill Henson, which included several photographs of naked pubescent children. Twenty-one of the forty photographs in the exhibition were seized during the raid, and police have announced that charges will be laid under the NSW Commonwealth and Crimes Act for "publishing an indecent article". Digital versions have also been removed from the Gallery's website.

Cquote1.svg Whatever the artistic view of the merits of that sort of stuff - frankly I don't think there are any - just allow kids to be kids. Cquote2.svg

—Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister

Politicians on both sides of the fence spoke out against the exhibition. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, speaking to the Nine Network, said he found the photos to be "absolutely revolting [...] Whatever the artistic view of the merits of that sort of stuff - frankly I don't think there are any - just allow kids to be kids." His Opposition counterpart, Brendan Nelson, believes that the exhibition "violates the things for which we stand as Australians and indeed as parents".

Art experts have supported Henson and defended his work, denying claims of child pornography and exploitation. According to Betty Churcher, a former director of the National Gallery of Australia, "[t]here is absolutely no suggestion of pornography in these photographs". Sydney art dealer Denis Savill hung one of Henson's works, featuring two nudes, in his gallery window beside an Arthur Boyd nude, to "give them something to grizzle about".

According to Tony Oxley, husband of gallery owner Roslyn, the gallery's answering machine has recorded several threats to burn the building down. The police action also calls into question the fate of similar works by Henson in other galleries in Australia and around the world.


Sources

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