If children saw the painting that has been removed from a London gallery… well, what exactly?

You've got to lower your sights to find the problem area.

You’ve got to lower your sights to find the problem area.

Alf has often been deeply fascinated by the urge of some people to ensure the rest of us are not shocked.

This urge to keep things decent has led in the UK to the removal of a painting by London- and Berlin-based artist Leena McCall from London’s Mall Gallery on the grounds that it is “too pornographic and disgusting”.

According to this report at Artdaily:

The painting was selected by the Society for Women Artists (SWA) for their 153rd annual exhibition. Two days after a special Charity Evening and the Private View the picture ‘Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing’ was removed by the Mall Galleries.

The painting features a young woman staring at the viewer suggestively, dressed in a vest and culottes pulled down to partially expose her naughty bits.

Unshaven naughty bits, what’s more.

Leena McCall said: “My work deals with female sexual and erotic identity. The fact that the gallery has deemed the work inappropriate and seen it necessary to have it removed from public display underlines the precise issue I am trying to address: how women choose to express their sexual identity beyond the male gaze.”

A Dr Brooke Magnanti has been riled enough by the censorship to ask:

When was it finally decreed that the entire world had to be sanitised for the sake of the children?

Most people agree that media aimed directly at children should not be sexually explicit. And indeed, that parents should have the final say, via internet tools, on what does or does not come into the house.

But since when was art now up for the chopping block?

Magnanti reckons McCalls’ full-length portrait of her friend Ms Ruby May is pretty and unremarkable apart from the otherwise fully-clothed May flashing a peek of well-groomed pubic hair to the viewer.

Oh, and she says it was removed from the Society of Women Artists show over fears it might be viewed by visiting schoolchildren.

Magnanti comments:


It’s not exactly a lot of pubic hair, either. You’d probably see more bared by accident at the leisure centre swimming pool. If that’s what counts as ‘pornographic and disgusting’ these days, heaven forfend they get a look at Titian’s Venus of Urbino. She’s touching herself! Down there!

And it’s a subtle reminder that the upper pubic region is, in fact, on display all the time in tabloids and gossip magazines, thanks to long lenses and ‘slebs on sunny holidays… only we’ve got so used to seeing it sans any hair whatsoever, that the suggestion of wispy tuft can – and does – surprise.

Never mind the fact that the gallery took this decision without electing to inform the artist of the society first. Or the fact that locations like the National Gallery, which are chock full on any given weekday with coach loads of schoolchildren, are stuffed with boobs and bums in their full glory. You practically can’t turn your head in that place without getting full frontal’ed by a rampaging satyr. But it’s art, not porn. And this was a line that at least we could agree.

She goes on:

Most people are not averse to the idea that there should be child-appropriate spaces. But the world is not child-appropriate.

It is full of horrors like the Savile allegations and the Yewtree trials, news coverage of attacks in Gaza, and thousands of more insults to innocence.

By all means let’s not have a world where kids are exposed to too much too soon. But let’s not kid ourselves that by wrapping our environment in the mental equivalent of cotton wool, that they won’t eventually find out that sex, violence, and all the rest exist. And maybe scratch their heads and wonder what it was you, exactly, found so dangerous about a woman and a few pubic hairs.

Artdaily wraps up its item by asking why is it that the exploration of the female form and eroticism has to be censored?

Good question.

If the painting had been of Alf exposing his naughty bits, on the other hand, the need to protect the little ones would have been obvious.

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