An Australian arts magazine has sparked controversy by
featuring a naked child on its cover. It says it did so to protest a recent
furore over pictures of naked girls shot by photographer Bill Henson.
In May police had raided the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in
Paddington, Sydney confiscating several images by Henson including the
photographs of a naked 13-year-old girl.
The photos sparked major national debate and angered several organisations,
including child-welfare groups, with Premier Morris Iemma labelling the works
"offensive and disgusting".
But eventually Henson was cleared of any wrongdoing and the pictures were
returned to the gallery.
Now the July edition of Art Monthly Australia
the cover image in protest over the "hysteria" over Henson's work.
It also includes several provocative photos of children posing naked in adult
jewellery as well as naked teenage girls, some photographs shot by Benson
In the editorial, Maurice O'Riordan said he chose the 2003
picture of the young girl in the "hope of restoring some dignity to the
debate" and to "validate nudity and childhood as subjects for
The image, taken by Melbourne-based Polixeni Papapetrou, is believed to be her
O'Riordan, who does not have children of his own, told The Sunday Telegraph he
did not care if it stirred community complaint.
"I believe the image is of a six-year-old girl," he said.
"Maybe this is bold, but I don't see the need to give in to that sort of
hysteria or the prospect of complaint.
"I couldn't really understand the furore."
The artist, Papapetrou, said she supported the use of her work for the
"We need to be clever enough to distinguish art from other types of
images, otherwise we live in danger of eradicating any image of childhood in
this culture for future generations to see."
Once there is a flood of complaint from the public and NSW Prime Minister Iemma
lashed out, saying, "Images of this kind are distasteful, exploitative of
children - a cheap, sick stunt at the expense of a young child," he said.
"We've now reached a sad point where some people think naked kids can
boost their sales and get them a headline. We will have no role in funding them
while they use images that exploit children."
Art Monthly Australia receives more than $50,000 in funding
from the Federal Government's Council for the Arts and lists the New South
Wales Ministry for the Arts under sponsors and partner. The State Government
has issued grants to the magazine in previous years.
In a TV interview, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he couldn't stand
such stuff and wondered, "How can anyone assume that a little child of six
years old, eight, 10, 12, somehow is able to make that decision for
NSW community services minister Kevin Greene said the images
had been inappropriately hijacked for political mileage.
"I will refer this to the Australian Classification Board tomorrow, and
the community also should let (the Board) know what they think," Greene
told reporters in Sydney.
Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell labelled the publication a "provocative
publicity stunt" and called for a review of Arts Council's funding for the
"The public are furious about the double standards, I think taxpayers are
angry when they see funds used in this way and to review it, I think, would be
Child abuse campaigners say there's an urgent need for laws to be changed in
all states and territories to prevent photos of naked children from being put
forward as art.
Hetty Johnston, executive director of the Bravehearts, said
it was now clear that the arts community clearly could not be relied on to
"New legislation is required across the country to remove
artistic merit from child pornography laws," she stressed.