Art exhibition portrays nude teenagers in Australia

Police investigated Friday whether any laws were broken by a Sydney art exhibition that the prime minister called revolting for its portrayal of nude 12- and 13-year-old children.

The exhibit by leading Australian photographer Bill Henson was suspended by police just ahead of its scheduled opening Thursday night, following public outrage.

It included large photographic prints of naked children, including a frontal image of a teenage girl.

Police began removing the photographs from the gallery Friday to investigate whether they breached child pornography laws.

Henson and the gallery agreed Thursday to temporarily suspend the show to allow investigators to speak to the children and their parents, police said.

"Once these inquiries have been made, a decision will be made on the future of the exhibition," police Superintendent Allan Sicard, of the suburb of Rose Bay, told reporters outside the gallery after the suspension.

The Web site for the gallery was also referred to authorities and the site was off-line.

The gallery said Friday it would withdraw the controversial images and reopen without them.

"Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery will remain closed while the current exhibition is re-hung," it said in a statement, jointly released with Henson. The statement defended Henson's reputation as an internationally respected contemporary artist.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd weighed in on the issue during an interview on Nine Network television.

"I find them absolutely revolting," he said when showed the photographs. "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."

Child protection group Braveheart labeled the photos child pornography and exploitation, and called for Henson and the gallery to be prosecuted. Some artists and gallery patrons, however, viewed the shutdown as censorship.

"I think the sexualization of children is an extremely important (issue)," said art market analyst Michael Reid. "The question is: 'Was there consent?' which I can't answer, and 'Has the image been sexualized?' In my opinion, it wasn't."

Henson's work has appeared in all of Australia's major art galleries and is part of collections in New York's Guggenheim Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Bibliothиque Nationale in Paris and other venues.


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