Ottawa

Controversial Tate exhibit coming to Ottawa

Works by some of the biggest names in contemporary art, from Jeff Koons to Damien Hirst, are coming to Ottawa as part of an exhibition that caused a stir in Britain when it included a photo of a naked Brooke Shields when she was 10 years old.

Picture of nude 10-year-old Brooke Shields has been replaced

Works by some of the biggest names in contemporary art, from Jeff Koons to Damien Hirst, are coming to Ottawa as part of an exhibition that caused a stir in Britain when it included a photo of a naked Brooke Shields when she was 10 years old.

After a visit by police, the Tate Modern gallery in London removed the photo of Shields when she was a child actor, and replaced it with one of her as an adult in a bikini.

The director of the National Gallery of Canada, Marc Mayer, said it will learn lessons from the Tate's experience to avoid some of the same problems when the Pop Life exhibit arrives in Ottawa next June.

The Richard Prince image of a nude Shields at age 10 had police looking into whether it broke obscenity laws. But British arts journalist Charlotte Higgins called the reaction a bit hysterical.

"It's a small and modest piece of art in an exhibition of far more grabby and sexually explicit pieces of work," she said.

Mayer said the exhibition is a bit spicy here and there.

"They've had some difficulties, difficulties that we're going to avoid because we're not the first venue. We're the second venue. And I think it's going to be very exciting to see this kind of work in Canada, and not have to take your passport out to see it," he said.

"It's a very important art historical exhibition believe it or not. This was the end of controversy in art. The contemporary art market really started in this period: the megasuperstar multimillionaire art stars etc., of which there are many in this exhibition. This is an exhibition that explains their strategies. And they weren't the only ones who benefited from success of their strategies in building a dynamic global art market. I think all of contemporary art benefited."

On display in London are works such as Hirst's animals set in formaldehyde.

As for what people will see in Ottawa, Mayer isn't saying much.

"There may be some surprises in the show. There may some things you didn't think we were able to borrow," he said.

Mayer hopes, starting next June, the Pop Life show will draw crowds without relying on impressionists or old masters to entice them.