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Nan Goldin at the Baltic – don't believe the hype


[Edit 26 October 2007. Update on this story here]

Given my unusual, if not exceptional, melding of experience in law and contemporary art practice, I ought to have jumped at the news that Plod were investigating a photo by Nan Goldin, Klara and Edda Belly Dancing, for a possible offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978. Instead I left it to VM at Ruthieslaw and Head of Legal to have a go.

Why? Partly because I was knackered, as mentioned before, but mostly because the story was a non-story from the get go.

Item one. Plod didn’t raid the Baltic gallery looking for child porn. They were asked for an opinion by the gallery directors, pre-opening. Nothing has been seized.

Item two. This same photo was part of the Saatchi Gallery Kiddie porn scare of 2001. It went on show.

Item Three. Well, how bloody often do we have to have this same story recycled in one way or another. Sally Mann, Tierney Gearon, Robert Mapplethorpe et bleeding cetera. Still, at least this version of the story has got Elton John in it.

The story does have me a bit worried, though. What the hell did the Baltic organisers think they were doing calling the police in for a ‘pre check’ on whether their art was porn or not, after they had damn well curated and collated the show? Did some bean counter or insurer have palpitations? For pity’s sake, it is art (not necessarily good art, but art nonetheless) and you have put it in your show.

At what point do you then think ‘perhaps I’d better see if the police think it is art or a bit porny’? The Library of the University of Central England had so much more bottle faced with a prosecution over a Mapplethorpe book. Baltic administrators, this is your job – to go ‘this is art and fuck you’ when some pillock calls the police in. You don’t get them to pre-approve your exhibitions.

Unless of course it is done for, cough, marketing purposes. The fact that this is more than plausible might say a hell of a lot about the current art world, the media and the rest of society at the same time.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. Mr Pineapples

    Get stuffed



  1. An upstanding member of the public « Beside the point - [...] wearily familiar cast list are the Baltic gallery - those wacky galleriens who have a history of inviting Northumbria…

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