The roslyn oxley9 gallery sent out a media release on the 23 May, 2008 saying the following:
Statement on behalf of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Bill Henson
After much consideration we have decided to withdraw a number of works from the current Bill Henson exhibition that have attracted controversy. The current show, without the said works, will be re-opened for viewing in coming days.
Bill Henson is one of Australia's leading contemporary artists and is internationally respected. His works are held in every leading art institution in Australia and are included in the collections of a number of the world's most prestigious art museums. The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria have both recently held a retrospective of 30 years of the artist's work.
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery will remain closed while the current exhibition is re-hung.
Someone had complained to the police and the Vice Squad removed the photographs on the grounds that the photos were pornographic.
Since then, controversy has raged on TV, in newspapers and on radio in Australia.
What are the photos? They are nude photos of 12 to 13 girls and boys. The photography is, in my opinion, very artistic. Shadows are used to show what the artist says he intends. To evoke the vulnerability and fragility of that stage of adolescence. Coming from the light to the dark or vice versa. The shadows also act to cover most of the sexual parts of the bodies, although not all. I don't know if that was the photographer's intention. But he has been showing such photos around the world and in Australia for many years. He says this stage of life fascinates him. He also takes many other photos of subjects not so controversial.
Recently, the Australian Government held a Twenty 20 summit including the experts in all fields of life's endeavours. Many ideas were floated and presented. It was seen to be a success. But the Creative stream of the conference, headed by Cate Blanchette, released their statement saying that this was censorship of art.
Now, I don't think it is censorship of art until the matter has been through the courts. If the works are said to be pornographic (which I don't think) then the gallery and the artist has committed a crime and the works should not be shown. It has not been the Censorship Board which has made these decisions.
What bothers me most is that a girl or boy of that age is not in a psychological or emotional condition to be able to give informed consent to being models for the photographer. Of course their parents gave consent. But is that right? I don't think I would.
The photographer is 45 and therefore in a position of power during shootings. I'm not at all suggesting that the young people were not safe in this environment. The photos portray the youths as almost asexual really. Now I don't know what control the parents or youths have after giving consent to the photo shoot. Do they have control of the finished shot? Presumably this would have to be the photographer's decision.
I know nudes of all ages have been portrayed in art. But in photos? And in these times of hypersensitivity to pedophiles and child sexual abuse and exploitation? Of course there are the really sexualized images of young girls in advertisements but these girls are clothed. I hate it, but I wouldn't censor it.
I don't think these Henson photos are sexualized. But it still disturbs me.
Well, the matter is in the courts now, so I guess not much more can be said.
But I'm interested in your view. I cannot show any images here. They are copyrighted. Many galleries do not allow viewing of larger images however
Written by contributer, Jenny Campbell from multifarious mushrooms