“The Law Society of NSW has backed embattled artist Bill Henson, who could face charges after police seized his latest gallery images which feature nude children.
Society president Hugh Macken said he could not see how a crime had been committed, and police prosecutors would have to argue the renowned Melbourne-based artist had intended to produce something other than art. “What is relevant to the commission of a crime is the intention,” Mr Macken told reporters in Sydney. “If the intention is to produce a work of art, and solely to produce a work of art, then I can’t see how a crime has been committed.”
Officers raided the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, in Paddington in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, just before the exhibition was due to open on Thursday night. They seized 20 of Henson’s images which feature a naked girl and boy said to be aged 12 to 13.
The gallery has since faced violent threats from anonymous phone callers, according to the Sun Herald.
NSW Police Force has said it intends to lay state and federal charges, and the investigation has also gone interstate as the young girl is understood to be living in Victoria. Rose Bay Local Area Commander Superintendent Allan Sicard said the seized images depicted a child under the age of 16 years “in a sexual context”. Commonwealth charges could be laid over the gallery’s website with state charges applying to the pictures, he said. The raid, and the prospect of an artist facing criminal charges, has reignited the debate about what constitutes art.
Acclaimed NSW artist Margaret Olley joined those in support of Mr Henson, saying that his images were being misconstrued. “All of a sudden it is turned into pornography – I am embarrassed that we seem to be going backwards,” she told the Seven Network.
NSW Police confirmed they are yet to lay charges as their investigation continues.
Mr Henson is yet to comment publicly. “
This coming Tuesday at 10pm the ABC will be showing The Art of Bill Henson a half hour ABC documentary by Tony Wyzenbeek originally screened in 2004.
“It was the first time Henson allowed TV cameras into his life, offering rare access to his practice. The show will be repeated on ABC2, Sunday June 1 at 7pm.
“On Sunday June 1 at 5pm, Sunday Arts will feature an ABC half hour special which also highlights the work of Bill Henson; a documentary by Louise Turley which charts the collaboration that created Luminous in 2005, a live performance incorporating the photography of Henson, the music of Richard Tognetti, vocals by Paul Capsis and soundscape by Paul Healy. This will be repeated the same night at 8.30pm on ABC2.”