Melbourne: A photo displayed at the Art Gallery of NSW showing a 15-year-old Kate Moss exposing her breasts has received mixed reviews from the visitors. While some visitors question if pressure had been applied to teenage Moss to expose her breasts in the photo shoot, many art lovers believe it was "being shown in an artistic context and has artistic merit.”
One British couple visiting the gallery, both aged 65 and who previously lived in the London borough of Croydon when Moss attended the local Riddlesdown High School in 1989 when the picture was taken, considered the image a problem.
“You don`t know how much pressure she was under to do a topless photo. I certainly wouldn`t feel comfortable if it was my child," the Age quoted the woman as saying.
But most art lovers were not offended by the image, entitled Kate 1989, pointing to the context of more than 30 other photos of "androgynous" subjects aged 16 to 20 now on show in the Modern Lovers exhibition by French photographer Bettina Rheims.
Rebecca Van Vlasselaer, 34, of Canada, who visited the gallery with her father Jean-Jacques, said that though she finds the Rheims image of Moss almost inappropriate because she looks so young there, even younger than her age, it doesn`t bother her.
She said Kate looks naive and pretty in the picture, and that she doesn’t think the series sexualises people.
"They`re almost like blank canvasses. It`s not pornography," she added.
Another visitor Claudia Alamein, 19, said that though it may be acceptable at that time, she feels the context is totally different now. She added that she would probably have a problem if it was her 15-year-old sister.
Tom Harvey, 19, who was with her, said: "There`s a fine line between child pornography and art, but I don`t think this crosses it."
But Randall McMullan, 68, of Auckland, doesn’t think it`s controversial.
"Nature intended us to reproduce at 15 and be dead by 20, so we`re beyond our sell-by date," McMullan said.
Surprisingly, Moss herself was not happy with the result.
"I hated it! I hated my boobs more than anything as a teenager. I`d do anything not to take my top off," Moss told a London newspaper paper last year.
"I see nudity as empowering now. Before I didn`t. I cried for years!" she added.
The Modern Lovers series was purchased by Lord Alastair McAlpine and donated to the Art Gallery of NSW in 1995.
The gallery has defended exhibiting the Moss photo, which has been exhibited and reprinted before.
"We exhibit art, not pornography," a spokeswoman said.
Photographer Rheims has said of the image: "At the time [Moss] was a little girl and she was showing herself this Thursday afternoon in a London agency, trying to become a model."
Rheims has said she was documenting androgyny, which was then a response to rising cases of HIV-AIDS.