The London police acting the initiatives of their Chiefs after consulting with prosecutors met with officials at the Tate Modern and had Richard Prince’s Spiritual America removed from public display. The exhibition publication has also been withheld from sale, the Guardian writes:
Spiritual America is a photograph of a photograph. The original – authorised by Shields’s mother for $450 – had been taken by a commercial photographer, Gary Gross, for the Playboy publication Sugar ‘n’ Spice in 1976. Shields later attempted, unsuccessfully, to suppress the picture.
Prince used the image as the source material for his own 1983 piece; he placed it in a gilt frame and displayed it, without labelling or explanation, in a shopfront in a then rundown street in Lower East Side, New York. The title comes from a photograph by Alfred Stieglitz from 1923 of a gelded horse.
Prince has described the image as resembling “a body with two different sexes, maybe more, and a head that looks like it’s got a different birthday.”
In an essay in the exhibition catalogue Jack Bankowsky, co-curator of the exhibition, describes the image as of “a bath-damp and decidedly underage Brooke Shields … When Prince invites us to ogle Brooke Shields in her prepubescent nakedness, his impulse has less to do with his desire to savour the lubricious titillations that it was shot to spark in its original context … than with a profound fascination for the child star’s story.”
The Metropolitan police said: “Officers from the obscene publications unit met with staff at Tate Modern … The officers have specialist experience in this field and are keen to work with gallery management to ensure that they do not inadvertently break the law or cause any offence to their visitors.”