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Aus PM under fire over art, pornography

Australia's arts community reacts with anger and amazement to the closure of a photo exhibition of naked children.

world Updated: May 26, 2008 17:21 IST

Australia's arts community reacted with anger and amazement to the closure of a photo exhibition of naked children and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's condemnation of the images as "revolting."

Playwright Michael Gow said the treatment of respected Australian photographer Bill Henson, whose exhibition of images of naked 12 and 13-year-olds was shut down by police last week, was unacceptable.

Rudd led criticism of the dark and moody photographs after complaints from the public that they were pornographic.

"I find them absolutely revolting," the prime minister said, adding that they were without artistic merit.

Gow, the artistic director of the Queensland Theatre Company, said this was at odds with Rudd's comments at a brain-storming meeting he called last month which included 100 leading members of the country's arts community.

"Among the many cliches endorsed at the 2020 Summit was the one about art. Being provocative and challenging," Gow wrote in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Now that some art has provoked, what has happened? The prime minister who invited us to Canberra has questioned the abilities and credential of a major Australian artist."

Gow urged others who attended the meeting, which was co-chaired by Hollywood star Cate Blanchett, to join his protest over the treatment of Henson.

Police shut down Sydney's Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery ahead of the opening of Henson's exhibition last week following complaints from the public over photographs that feature frontal nudity.

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