Tuesday 5 May 2009


One of the things that made me happy at the Auckland Art Fair was that Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery brought over two Bill Henson photos from the series that sparked accusations of child exploitation last year (interestingly, the photos at the centre of the debate don't seem to be on the site).

I've actually seen very few of Henson's photos in person (I'm still keenly disappointed that the big survey show a few years back didn't come over here). As much as I love them and think them to be very, very beautiful, I still felt rather uncomfortable looking at them; even in that context. That's the power of them.

Coincidentally, on the trip up to Auckland I read David Marr's The Henson Case, a long investigative essay in which Marr, a Sydney Morning Herald writer, tracks how the controversy was sparked, grew, and abated.

The book is a fantastic (and idiosyncratically Australian - "spruiked", anyone?) and engrossing read. Little details poke out at you: Oxley always gets her hair washed on the afternoons of openings; Henson's neighbours kept cave for him against journalists; all the people at that 2020 culturel forum were on a list-serv. It's fascinating to see not only how the media and politicians worked or responded to the situation, but also the manoeuvres of Oxley and Henson's media handler, and who in the art world spoke out & what they said.

I only wish someone would write something similar about NZ's own donkey in a dunnie fiasco.

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