Keep the Police Away from Our Art Exhibitions

Article excerpt

Byline: Olivia Cole

EVER since the lifting of the Lady Chatterley ban in 1963, the police and public morality have been uneasy bedfellows. Elton John, who has a vast photography collection, unwittingly fell foul of the law when a portrait of two young girls dancing by Nan Goldin, chronicler of New York night life, was loaned to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. It was dramatically seized before the Crown Prosecution Service decided that it wasn't "indecent" after all. Last year, the Tate Modern had to pull a portrait of Brooke Shields by Richard Prince.

This week it has been the turn of the late photographer Bob Carlos Clarke, whose work is being shown at the Little Black Gallery in once bohemian Chelsea.

In his commercial work for magazines and ads, Carlos Clarke was stylised and sexy; in his private work (for which there is a great market), his imagination runs riot and is admittedly edgy.

I was younger and perhaps more shockable when I went to a private view of his work a few years back: I didn't know where to look because his installation of scantily clad women turned out to look so life-like because they were, in fact, alive.

A spate of residents' complaints has now brought a letter from the police to the gallery. "My assessment is that Whip Girl is acceptable but I have some concerns about Tite Street," wrote the poor officer charged with checking out the show. "Tite Street appears to show a man having rear entry sex with a woman who is bent double and not wearing any knickers. …