Free societies don’t censor art


Among the many Greek myths, retold countless times in the past few millennia, is the one where Zeus transforms into a swan and rapes the beautiful Leda, resulting in the even more beautiful Helen of Troy.

Leaving aside the whole rape part (which is obviously Not Good), the Greek myths and their retellings have inspired great art. I’d tentatively put the picture here into that category (in so far that it looks better than Michaelangelo’s version, a copy of which hangs in the National Gallery).

The Metropolitan Police don’t think so. One of their strangely sheltered number went past the gallery displaying the image on a bus and was shocked at what he (presumably) stared at through his handy pair of binoculars. Two of his equally prudish colleagues were dispatched forthwith to tell the gallery owner to remove the artwork, apparantly because inciting anonymous patrons and bus travellers to commit bestiality is a crime. Who knew? And how would that even be possible? It’s like suggesting me reading a book might incite a policeman into getting smarter. It’s hardly likely to happen.

The gallery were in the process of taking the exhibition down anyway, but plod stayed until the offending inciting material was removed from the wall and left spouting warnings for the owner to be more careful which art they chose to display next time.

Excuse me? What the actual buggering fuck was that all about? It’s an artwork. It’s not porn, and not only because the chances of getting a swan (not noted fans of human contact) to mount an actress for the cameras are remarkably low. It’s clearly art.

I know art is famously hard to define, and pornography harder still (ho ho), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a less erotic, more arty image in my life. And – and! – there’s that very similar painting visible for free as paid for by the government using our money. It’s just dustier. Otherwise, it’s the same image.

And even if it was actually a bit pornier, what business it is of London plod to intervene I’m completely at a loss to understand.  If you don’t like a piece of art, stop looking at it. It goes away immediately you look away. Go and look at the nice wallpaper next to it instead.

Unless, of course, by suggesting that, I would be inciting wallpaperophiles into committing grossly obscene acts with the blown vinyl?