Sir Elton John’s Photo: Art or Child Pornography?

That’s the big story today: police have seized a photo from a gallery exhibition in Gateshead, England “following concerns that it may breach child pornography laws,” The Times reports. Sir Elton John has come forward as the owner of the photograph featuring two nude girls. It is titled “Klara and Edda belly-dancing.” John, an avid collector of art, had loaned it out to the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art. Showing their utmost gratitude, the museum turned around and ratted on him to the cops. (Thanks, guys.) John has defended the photographer Nan Goldin on his website. An excerpt:

The photograph entitled “Klara and Edda belly-dancing” (1998) is one of 149 images comprising the “Thanksgiving” installation by renowned U.S. photographer Nan Goldin.

The photograph exists as part of the installation as a whole and has been widely published and exhibited throughout the world. It can be found in the monograph of Ms. Goldin’s works entitled “The Devil’s Playground” (Phaidon, 2003), has been offered for sale at Sotheby’s New York in 2002 and 2004, and has previously been exhibited in Houston, London, Madrid, New York, Portugal, Warsaw, and Zurich without any objections of which we are aware.

Child pornography is policed under the Protection of Children Act 1978, which states:

The law on images of child abuse is clear. It is an offence to take, permit to be taken, make, possess, show, distribute or advertise indecent images of children in the United Kingdom. The word indecent should be taken at its dictionary meaning; as a guide it means any images of children, apparently under 18 years of age, involved in sexual activity or posed to be sexually provocative.

The last line seems to provide the key distinction between art and porn. Underage nudity can be allowed if the portrait isn’t “sexually provocative,” which is a purely subjective determination. Let’s just hope cooler heads prevail before a witch-hunt begins.

In other news:

  • Report: Kate Moss says she’s engaged to Tom Hince of The Kills.(Mirror)
  • The cast for the State of Play remake just gets better and better: Helen Mirren has signed on for the Bill Nighy role, and Rachel McAdams (love her) and Robin Wright Penn are also confirmed for the movie. I’m thinking McAdams will play Kelly Macdonald‘s part, and maybe Wright Penn will be Polly Walker?(Guardian)
  • Expect Dame Helen to strip off a lot more in her films: Mirren calls herself “a nudist at heart.”(Contact Music)
  • Danielle Lloyd was strip-searched on suspicion of smuggling cigarettes from Gibraltar to Spain.(The Sun)
  • Victoria Beckham is bringing Nazi back. Yeah! The Sun‘s thought bubble in Victoria’s photo is plain brilliance.
  • It has been scientifically proven: Victoria Beckham has the world’s worst breasts.(Digital Spy)
  • Funny how Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall seems more lifelike in wax.
    (The Sun)
  • Billie Piper, who is engaged to actor Laurence Fox, says, “I don’t want to become like Ross from Friends, who always gets married. I really want this to be the last time I walk up the aisle.”(The Times)
  • Talk show host Jeremy Kyle, excoriated by a judge for his “morbid” program, will bear-bait without shame, dammit! He tells The Mirror, “Of course, I know there’s a stigma attached to the show. But I am proud of what we do.” The Daily Mail has video of the infamous “head-butting” incident. Check out Kyle’s finger-waving moral outrage at the assailant: “Don’t even open your mouth – woah!”
  • The Daily Telegraph‘s Judith Woods is simply appalled by The Jeremy Kyle Show and adds, “Its very existence diminishes us all.”

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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