To appreciate how and why the law may restrain your ability to freely express yourself as an artist, it is important to understand how and why your work might cause offence.

Of course, not all work that is offensive is going to trigger action against the artist for obscenity, blasphemy or inciting racial or religious hatred, because the tests applied will reflect the morals and concerns of the period in which the work is viewed.

What is clear, however, is that if there is an aggrieved party, action can be brought against you and the gallery showing your work, by the police, local authority or a private individual.  If you are therefore proposing to include work in a show which is likely to prove controversial, you should consider with the gallery whether you will be guilty of obscenity, blasphemy or racial or religious incitement.

Freedom of Expression: part 2

In cases of both import and export, what is obscene is a matter for the customs officers, in the first place, and then for a jury to decide; it is not the same as the meaning of obscene under the Obsc …

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An Inspector Calls

A Metropolitan Police Inspector called upon the Saatchi Gallery in North London last month, ordered the removal of two artworks and a publication related to the exhibition ‘I am a Camera’, and threate …

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An Inspector May Call Again

Readers may recall our report and commentary (AM 245) on the Metropolitan Police Service’s threat to prosecute the photographer Tierney Gearon for showing allegedly indecent photographs of her childre …

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Power Plays: Chimes of Freedom

The attempted censorship of the Power Plays exhibition at the Ferens Art Gallery by Hull City Council in October raises issues of the greatest importance. An explanation of its legal facets will enabl …

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Displaying Student Work

Now that the annual round of degree shows is completed, one particular issue has been very prevalent this season and remains an unclear and often challenging area. Showing students’ artworks to the pu …

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Freedom of Expression: part 1

Most totalitarian regimes have an Official Censor: we don’t. But there are still ways in which public authorities and private individuals and organisations are able to restrict freedom of expression. …

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Shelter from the storm

Not a word was spoke between us, There was little risk involved. Everything up to that point Had been left unresolved* Last minute cancellation of one-off exhibitions on grounds of taste is not new. S …

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Mapplethorpe

Much heat and hype has been generated by the media in recent months over the Hayward Gallery’s decision to self-censor two works from the Mapplethorpe retrospective. The purpose of this piece is not t …

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Morals, Mores & Minors

Lewis Carroll and Edgar Degas in the 19th Century, Balthazar Klossowski (Balthus) and Robert Mapplethorpe in the 20th Century, and Tierney Gearon and Annalies Strba at the beginning of this century, e …

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Art and the law on trial

Does the public need protecting against art and artists? Recent serious and real events in Parliament and the Courts have raised this apparently whimsical and abstract question to public notice. The l …

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