I attended a panel discussion on connoisseurship in the arts last Tuesday and during the discussion a current UK court ruling was brought to our attention: A district judge ordered the destruction of several vintage photographs from the 19th century by French artist Pierre Louÿs and the German artist Wilhelm von Plüschow on the account that they are “indecent”.
I was seriously shocked and so was the audience – we could hardly believe that this is possible in the 21st century, especially as the last decades saw various debates on the freedom of art vs “decency”. Certainly it didn’t help that the owner of the photographs is a convicted paedophile artist…
I recommend a comment by The Guardian on the relationship artist to their art: From Caravaggio to Graham Ovenden: do artists’ crimes taint their art?
The Spectator also comments on the case and underlying ideas in a more direct way: Graham Ovenden’s art is controversial, but its destruction is a scandal
The Independent covers the trial: Paedophile artist’s photographs and paintings must be destroyed, judge rules
The BBC on the artist Graham Ovenden involved in the case: Artist Graham Ovenden jailed after ‘unduly lenient’ sentence
The Plymouth Herald describes some of the paintings in more detail.
While it is hard to comment on the basis of limited press coverage my opinion is very much in line with the Guardian’s and Spectator’s comments.
Destruction of artworks on the basis of “taste” or “personal opinion” reminds me a lot of the McCarthy era (not to mention the Third Reich) and the campaign against pornography (probably a delicate comparison if art becomes “paedophilia”).