Steve Dow, John Saxby
Published: February 9, 2013 - 10:19AM
HER tresses thick and flowing, her chest fully exposed, 15-year-old Kate Moss was going places.
''At the time she was a little girl and she was showing herself this Thursday afternoon in a London agency, trying to become a model,'' says the photographer Bettina Rheims.
Moss was not so happy with the picture, taken in 1989, and later exhibited in Rheims's series of androgynous subjects, Modern Lovers. ''I hated it!'' Moss told a London newspaper last year. More than two decades later the image is once again on display from today at the Art Gallery of NSW in Rheims's Modern Lovers exhibition.
''I hated my boobs more than anything as a teenager. I'd do anything not to take my top off. I see nudity as empowering now. Before I didn't. I cried for years!''
Despite community concerns about the depiction of children in art, most notably in the work of Bill Henson and Ella Dreyfus, the Art Gallery of NSW said it had ''no issue'' displaying the image of Moss as part of an exhibition opening on Saturday.
After the controversy over Henson's photos, the NSW government changed its child pornography laws in 2010, removing the defence of artistic purpose. The arts funding body the Australia Council later released a set of protocols for working with children in art.
''She's part of the series,'' said a spokeswoman for the gallery. ''In Modern Lovers, Rheims … uses models, the oldest of whom was 20, to depict an androgynous image of youth.''
The gallery said the image had been on public display previously without complaint.
''We exhibit art not pornography,'' the spokeswoman said.
George Souris, the Minister for the Arts, was unavailable for comment, a spokesman said.
The series of photographs was bought by Lord Alistair McAlpine who donated them to the gallery in 1995.
Thirty of Rheims's images are to be teamed with 20 photographs by the late Helmut Newton who, according the gallery, ''had the ability to shock by making explicit the relationship between body, clothes, environment and voyeurism''.
Rheims, 60, who was a model and a journalist, has never had her work exhibited with Newton's work before. She said she was ''very proud'' that the gallery was showing both their works.
''He was my master,'' said Rheims, ''not in terms of inspiration, but in terms of giving me the strength, the power to become what I became.
''He decided to take me under his wing. I was a young photographer. He was a superstar. I used to go and see Helmut for dinner, every Thursday night, Helmut and [his wife] June. I would go and bring my work. It lasted for years. Helmut and I were very close.''
Modern Lovers is showing at the Art Gallery of NSW until May 19.
This story was found at: http://www.dailylife.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/topless-teenage-moss--is-it-art-20130208-2e3th.html