The thirteenth annual Sculpture by the Sea, opened in Sydney on 29 October.
The thirteenth annual Sculpture by the Sea, opened in Sydney on 29 October. Prior to opening the organisers insisted Paul Trefry’s sculpture Little Boy Lost be displayed wearing swimwear instead of being exhibited nude as the sculptor intended.
This censoring caused an outcry from various quarters, especially in light of the Bill Henson incident in May 2008. The opening night of Bill Henson's 2007-2008 Sydney exhibition was canceled after complaints were made to Police voicing concerns about the gallery’s invitation depicting photographs of a nude 13-year old girl.
The Australian Raelian Movement supported Bill Henson and immediately sent out a press release stating that it was left dumbfounded by the apparent stupidity of Sculpture by the Sea’s decision to put pants on Paul Treffy's Little Boy Lost.
Well-known artist and representative of the Australian Raelian Movement, Luke (LuXifer) Roberts was quoted as saying, "Shame on the Sydney officials who took this decision. A new low of stupidity has been reached,"
The Australian Raelian Movement was greatly concerned about the shrill indignation, hysteria and fear mongering around the depiction of nude children in the arts. Those who see evil in a naked child are often the very ones that society needs to be protected from.
"Belgium has Manneken Pis, which is located near the Brussels Town Hall and Grand Place. It lives up to its name and urinates water daily. It is a much loved, much visited sculpture and a famous Brussels landmark with an international reputation. It brings joy and delight to those who see it and has been in place for hundreds of years. Even the Catholic Church has armies of naked cupids throughout many of its churches," LuXifer observed. "Now we appear to have a new Puritanism on our hands."
"If these Sydney Officials were in Belgium they would put underwear on the Manneken Pis! Its ridiculous," Jarel, spokesperson for the Australian Raelian Movement(ARM) added.
Many others were also compelled to comment including leading social commentator, sex therapist and author Bettina Arndt, who suggested on Q&A, a highly regarded Australian television show, that they form a group and go down to the beach and remove the swimwear. Even Tony Abbott, a conservative Catholic politician agreed the decision was part of a worrying new ‘wowserism’ (Australian slang for the views of fanatically puritanical people).
In a letter to Michael Maxwell, who is chairman of Sculpture by the Sea, LuXifer Roberts of the Australian Raelian Movement stated that “this recent decision is yet another example of compromising our freedom for a false sense of security. The role of art is to be revolutionary. Instead the little boy is now a symbol of man’s stupidity. Instead of bringing enlightenment with art, the decision to clothe the boy panders to society's darker side and obscurantism."
Artist Paul Trefry said he had felt so uncomfortable with the ruling that his sculpture had to be clothed that he rose at 7.30am and made the short trip from his Bondi home to return the piece to its intended naked form.
''I've had enough of censorship, about how the Government are basically stopping everyone from doing anything,'' he said. ''If Sculpture by the Sea want me to remove [my sculpture], I will. If they are going to do something so petty, I would rather not be in the exhibition.''
But Sculpture by the Sea founder David Handley said the piece would remain. ''We think it is pretty funny and guessed they'd probably reappear on eBay,'' he said of the missing swimmers. ''Then we found out the artist took them off himself, and thought, 'Why not?' Now, if people wish, they can see him in all his glory.''
The Chairman Michael Mazwell wrote back to the Raelian Movement stating, “We agree with your comments about freedom of artistic expression and each year have many sculptures that include the nude figures either in realistic or stylised forms.
“Our Bondi exhibition is staged by a relatively small not for profit organisation which could not afford to face the controversy that built up over the Bill Henson photos. The concern was due to the fact the sculpture was based on a real child and we would not have the opportunity to inform the public of what to expect.
“We are very pleased that the media coverage of Little Boy Lost has resulted in the sculpture being exhibited as the artist originally intended and wish to note that while the artist would have preferred to exhibit the sculpture without swimming costumes he was told In May this year that he might be asked to exhibit with costumes in which case he would have the choice whether or not to exhibit and he chose to exhibit.”
Sculpture by the Sea transformed the Sydney coastline with over 100 sculptures by artists from across the world and is on display on the spectacular Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk until November 15.