United Kingdom: Painting removed from exhibition over pubic hair

Leena McCall’s painting of a tattooed, pipe-smoking woman with her trousers lowered to reveal pubic hair was removed from the 153rd annual Society of Women Artists exhibit in London by the Mall Galleries. It went viral.


‘Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing’

The painting was deemed to be “too pornographic and disgusting”, the artist said.

The Society of Women Artists told the Guardian:

“The executive secretary, Rebecca Cotton, said: “We thought the painting was beautifully executed and the composition was much admired. We saw nothing wrong with it; had we, the piece would not have been selected. We hire the gallery space from the Mall Galleries for the period that the show is on. The gallery took it down without seeking our approval.”

In a statement, the Mall Gallery said:

“As an educational arts charity, the federation has a responsibility to its trustees and to the children and vulnerable adults who use its galleries and learning centre. After a number of complaints regarding the depiction of the subject and taking account of its location en route for children to our learning centre, we requested the painting was removed.”

Leena McCall set up a social media campaign under the banner #eroticcensorship to see if she could get people talking about sexuality in that medium instead. Indeed she could. According to Chicago Reader, the painting went viral in social media.

The Independent – 8 July 2014:
‘Pornographic and disgusting’ painting removed from top London exhibition – because it features a woman’s pubic hair
Leena McCall’s Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing was taken down to protect ‘children and vulnerable adults’

Banned, censored and ‘offensive’ artworks

The British newspaper The Independent has collected eight censored artworks in a slide show:

Wikipedia carries a detailed description of a 1988 painting censorship incident:


‘Mirth & Girth’ is a posthumous portrait painting by art student David K. Nelson, Jr., depicting the recently deceased mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington wearing only a bra, G-string, garter belt and stockings. After a brief showing at a May 1988 private student exhibition, angry African-American aldermen arrived with Chicago Police Department officers and confiscated the painting, triggering a First Amendment and race relations crisis and a civil lawsuit.

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