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Naked pictures furore at Lauderdale House

PUBLISHED: 16:27 24 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:59 07 September 2010

Lauderdale House art work needs to come down prior to a wedding reception.
General Manager Katherine Ives (blue top) and Bookings Manager Nicola Dempsey inspect the art nudes

Lauderdale House art work needs to come down prior to a wedding reception. General Manager Katherine Ives (blue top) and Bookings Manager Nicola Dempsey inspect the art nudes

Jonathan Goldberg 07958 229 037

PAINTINGS of naked teenage girls sparked controversy in Highgate and had to be taken down at the weekend. Lauderdale House is currently running its Sex and Society exhibition - but had to remove much of the artwork ahead of a wedding

Tan Parsons

PAINTINGS of naked teenage girls sparked controversy in Highgate and had to be taken down at the weekend.

Lauderdale House is currently running its Sex and Society exhibition - but had to remove much of the artwork ahead of a wedding.

The paintings by Martin Wright, described as "a tasteful presentation to inspire your sensual imagination", also led to a complaint about the apparent young age of some models and their state of undress.

The decision to take down the paintings has enraged artists involved in the exhibition - but Lauderdale House's general manager Katherine Ives has defended the move.

"We have found through past experience that with life drawings - particularly ones that include naked bodies - people having weddings tend to get a bit upset by them. The bride doesn't want to have her photograph taken with a naked bottom or pair of boobs sticking out behind her left ear," she said.

"This is their special day and we have to respect that - they are going to look back at these pictures for the rest of their lives."

Ms Ives confirmed an email of complaint had been received from someone who had viewed the exhibition. But she said: "I don't think these images are pornographic. And I have been assured all the models in the paintings are at least 16 years old.

"Inevitably any exhibition we show is going to provoke different responses from different people.

"We take all our exhibitions very seriously and we are a public building and an arts centre and people of all ages and backgrounds come through our doors. We have to try to balance not being censorious with catering for the range of people who come into our building.

"This exhibition falls into a grey area in terms of what's appropriate. These pictures are extremely well painted and I don't think they're offensive - but then you get into the debate about what is or isn't pornographic," she said.

The artwork, which includes girls stretching out naked on their beds and in the middle of undress, was taken down temporarily for the weekend wedding but has now been restored to the walls.

Leslie Lipton, who is the exhibitor of the work, has been angered by the censorship.

He said: "Lauderdale House knew what it was taking on when they saw the pictures. We had a lot of visitors on the opening day and not one person complained about the pictures - we had a lot of compliments.

"This is a shame from our point of view because some people at the wedding might have quite liked the pictures and decided to buy one, so we might lose out.

"If people have said they think the girls in the pictures look aged 12 or 14, it's quite frankly nonsense. These paintings are absolutely not pornographic and the models are aged 16, 18 and 20. Most of the paintings were done in life drawing classes.

"Martin is an extremely talented artist and these are some wonderful and extremely tasteful pieces. They are nudes but that does not mean they are pornographic. They are the kind of things you would put up in your bedroom."

Mr Lipton, who has been an art collector all his life, hired the lower gallery at the Waterlow Park venue for two weeks to exhibit Mr Wright's paintings alongside work by the artists Ryan Everson, Julia Eskell and Karl Slater.

The exhibition closes on Sunday.

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk

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