A photograph from a controversial art collection owned by Sir Elton John has been seized by police in a child porn inquiry. Sir Elton's website declared that he owned the controversial piece and that it was on loan to a gallery. The photograph was seized by detectives the day before an exhibition of the musician's private collection was due to go on public display at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, Northern England. The rest of his collection was displayed as planned. Ironically, the photograph was reported to police by the management of the Baltic.
The Baltic management has declined to comment since reporting the photograph-- aside from a spokeswoman who stated, "We are working alongside the police and are not in a position to comment further". A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: "We attended the Baltic last Thursday at the invitation of management who were seeking advice about an item from an exhibition prior to it going on public display. This item is being assessed and Northumbria Police in consultation with the CPS are investigating the circumstances surrounding it".
The photograph, entitled Klara And Edda Belly-Dancing, depicts an image of two naked young girls and was taken by controversial American photographer Nan Goldin. The girls in the photo are laughing and playing-- one is on her back with her knees bent under her and the other is wrapped in fabric. Police and Crown Prosecution Service lawyers must decide whether the image owned by Sir Elton is pornography or art. It is now being examined by Northumbria Police to see if it breaches UK pornography legislation.
Klara and Edda Belly-Dancing, which was purchased by Sir Elton from the White Cube gallery in London in 1999, is one of 149 images that comprise Goldin's Thanksgiving Installation. The collection is said to document Goldin's life between 1973 and 1999. It has been widely published and has been exhibited throughout the world. In the past the photograph has been offered for sale at Sotheby's New York. Based on what I've read there have never been any objections to the photograph in the past-- even when it was exhibited in London.
Insiders have stated that the Northumbria Police are focusing on who may have been involved in the production of the image-- which would include Nan Goldin and anyone involved in the images development-- and anyone who has previously owned or displayed the photograph as a part of their investigation. Others have stated that the police are focusing on Goldin's past heroin addiction and the fact that her work has been involved in past child-porn inquiries.
What do you think about this case? Should all artists feel threatened by this censorship? Is this just a sign of our times? Is it justice? Should Sir Elton John, Nan Goldin, White Cube gallery, Sotheby's and any other individual or organization that has possessed Klara and Edda Belly-Dancing-- either the photograph itself or a reproduction-- be held responsible if it is deemed to be child pornography? Will this charge hold up if it is brought to court? Is Nan Goldin an artist or a criminal? Is Elton a collector or a criminal? Did the management of the Baltic stab the artworld in the back? Do fine art photographs like this one give pedophiles an excuse for having child pornography? Could this be a form of publicity stunt? Discuss.