Detail from “Spiritual Americana” by Richard Prince via Telegraph.co.uk
On Tuesday the British Metropolitan Police visited the Tate Modern exhibition ‘Pop Life: Art in a Material World‘ to investigate the exhibition of ‘Spiritual America‘ by Richard Prince: an image depicting a 10-year-old, naked Brooke Shields. It was reported yesterday that officers were consulting with the Crown Prosecution service over whether the image breaches the Obscene Publications Act. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said, “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 offense to their visitors,” according to the United Kingdom Press Association. The image has now been officially withdrawn from the show which opened on Monday.
Brooke Shields via People.com
Richard Prince Website
Photo of nude 10-year-old Brooke Shields, ‘Spiritual Americana’, part of Tate Modern Pop Art exhibit [NYDailynews]
Brooke Shields picture withdrawn from Tate Modern show after Police Visit [Telegraph.co.uk]
Brooke Shields Controversy: Tate Modern exhibits hardcore porn in same show [Telegraph.co.uk]
Naked Police power in the Gallery [Guardian.co.uk]
Nude Brooke Shields photo “Spiritual America” closed-off from Museum-going public [WallStreetJournal]
It seems the Police were not alerted to the image’s potential obscenity due to public complaints but instead through coverage of the exhibition in the press. Children campaigners have now condemned Tate for its inclusion, describing the image as a “magnet for pedophiles”.
The image was originally placed by the curatorial staff in its own room behind a closed door bearing a warning that the work was “challenging.” This is the first time the image has been exhibited in Britain; in 2007 it was exhibited during the Richard Prince retrospective at the Guggenheim. It remained as part of the exhibition for the entire duration of the show without any controversy.
The image is a photograph of a photograph; the original was taken in 1975 by the American photographer Garry Gross. It was originally commissioned by Shield’s mother in an initiative to send her daughter to fame, quickly. In 1981 Shield’s made an unsuccessful attempt to buy the negatives back; the judge ruled she was simply a “hapless victim of a contract… to which grasping adults bound her.”