Museum Studies, Recent Acquisitions

This is not Spiritual America

Pop Life: Art in a Material World, page 123 Paging through Pop Life: Art in a Material World, a casual reader might not even notice the beige sticker affixed to page 123, that blithely states, "This image has been obscured on legal advice." To be sure, more eye catching, frank, risqué images populate the pages of the catalog, with Jeff Koons' Made in Heaven series, featuring his ex wife, former pornographic film star Cicciolina, among these. But the omission is telling. The inscription on the image refers to Richard Prince's Spiritual America 1983, a work steeped in prior controversy; the image is only partially provided, as seen above. Reviewing press clippings and blogs, provides some clarity.

The exhibition, which closed at the Tate in the middle of January after a year long run, opened with the original photograph intact. Upon visitation by Scotland Yard, the Tate removed the image, and placed a different image in its place, after consulting the artist. Articles at the time of these events refer to the catalog being held up due to the ramifications of publishing the image, which the authorities claimed to be in violation of decency laws. Above is the result. In an effort to avoid a costly loss on nearly 12,000 copies of the catalog, Tate publishing resorted to the beige sticker. I barely even noticed it myself.