A display due to go on show to the public at Tate Modern has been withdrawn after a warning from Scotland Yard that the naked image of actor Brooke Shields aged 10 and heavily made up could break obscenity laws.
The work, by American artist Richard Prince and entitled Spiritual America, was due to be part of the London gallery’s new Pop Life exhibition . It has been removed from display after a visit to Tate Modern by officers from the obscene publications unit of the Metropolitan police.
The exhibition had been open to members of the Tate today before opening to the public tomorrow. A Tate spokeswoman confirmed that the display had been temporarily closed down and the catalogue for the exhibition withdrawn from sale. The work had been accompanied by a warning, and the Tate had sought legal advice before displaying it.
The decision by officers to visit Tate Modern is understood to have been made after police chiefs saw coverage of the exhibition in newspapers, rather than as a result of complaints.
Officers met gallery bosses and are also understood to have consulted the Crown Prosecution Service as to whether the image broke obscenity laws.
A Scotland Yard source said the actions of its officers were common sense and were taken to pre-empt any breach of the law. The source said the image of Shields was of potential concern because it was of a 10-year-old, and could be viewed as sexually provocative.
The work has been shown recently in New York, without attracting major controversy, where it gave the title to the 2007 retrospective of Prince’s work at the Guggenheim Museum. Prince has described the image as resembling a body with two different sexes, maybe more, and a head that looks like it’s got a different birthday.