22 May 2008

Police halt Bill Henson opening on child sexualisation investigation.

NSW Police closed down the opening night of Australian and international photographer Bill Henson's new show at the Roslyn Oxley Gallery in Sydney's Paddington this evening.

I was on the scene when two NSW Police walked from the building and advised the waiting media and bemused art lovers like myself that the gallery owners and Bill Henson had halted the opening pending an investigation by the NSW Child Protection Authority. Henson was seen leaving before Police made the announcment.

Police said they would be interviewing one of the subjects of the photographs and her parents.

Henson's work is renowned for it's use of young models set against lush and often opulent settings. He featured in a major retrospective at the NSW Art Gallery in 2006.

NSW Police were reacting to a piece by Sydney Morning Herald journalist Miranda Devine in Wednesday's edition which in turn fueled Sydney's incendiary talk back radio commentators with critics describing the images as contributing to the sexualisation of children.

Expect outrage from many quarters against the conservative Devine's outpourings and a backlash from both the Australian art world and media and the start of a new round of censorship.



In a statement on Friday the Gallery said:

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.

It was later reported that Police expected to press charges against Henson and the Gallery.

Anonymous said...

The latest edition of Art and Australia features an interview with Bill Henson on the planned exhibition, editorial by NSW Art Gallery Director Edmund Capon and features photos from the now notorious exhibition.


The Henson article appears in the previous issue of Art World, not the current one.


It seems that the copy I saw of Art World is going to become a rare collectors edition with Art World reportedly pulping the entire print run of 25,000 copies featuring images from the Henson exhibition and going to a reprint.