Focus turns to gallery

A MONASH councillor has called for the council-owned Monash Gallery of Art to “come clean” on its collection of 30 Bill Henson works after an extraordinary police raid on a Henson exhibition in Sydney last month.

At a separate exhibition soon after the May 23 raid, an MGA-owned work was one of three Henson images taken down at the Albury Regional Art Gallery.

The work Untitled 1992, depicting a naked teenage couple in an embrace with a nude girl and a clothed young person in the background, was part of a youth issues exhibition named Proof of Life.

Monash councillor Craig Shiell called on the MGA to disclose whether it has any “inappropriate works”.

“It’s of concern to me that the gallery in Albury has taken the position of taking down the artwork.

“If we’ve got artworks that are inappropriate, and I’m not sure what the gallery has, then it should be disclosed.

“If we start hiding things away, it shows a lack of transparency. If something pops up at our gallery, I’ll have something to say.”

Henson, a globally renowned artist and prominent contributor on the MGA’s committee of management since 2002, faces possible charges over images of naked 12 and 13-year-olds that were confiscated by police from the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney.

Monash councillor Ryan Brown, who sits on the MGA committee, said the committee may have to make a decision on Henson’s continued tenure if charges were laid.

But he said Henson had “represented himself as a highly professional artist – his views are highly valued by the board”.

Fellow councillor Stephen Dimopoulos, also on the committee, said he’d “vehemently” resist any moves to axe Henson or to censor his art.

“The worst thing you can get is politicians vetoing art.”

MGA committee of management chairman Bill Bowness said Henson made an “enormous and valuable contribution of time and intelligent guidance” to the MGA.

Monash Mayor Paul Klisaris backed Henson’s tenure on the MGA committee but stopped short of praising his artwork.

“I am not personally familiar with his folio of work, nor am I an art critic, so those types of judgements are better left for the experts.”

He said decisions on future purchases or exhibitions of Henson’s work, as with other artists, lay with the MGA committee.

Meanwhile, an Albury City Council spokeswoman said the decision to take down three artworks was a “prudent measure, rather than under instruction from the police”.

Albury Council community and recreation manager James Jenkins said the gallery had received no direct complaints from the public and would re-exhibit the works if they get “the green light” from the police.