Alberta art gallery takes down student’s work after complaint over nudity

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WATCH ABOVE: A Lethbridge student's art piece is being called, by some, too controversial for elementary school students. The Lethbridge Public School Board asked the Southern Alberta Art Gallery to take the piece down after a parent complained. Kimberly Tams has more. – Jun 1, 2016

A piece of art created by a Lethbridge high school student has been taken down from where it was hung at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG) after someone filed a complaint about it.

The artwork is a collage which includes elements from the Birth of Venus, an iconic 15th century painting. But after first being put up as in a more public part of the gallery, it has since been tucked away to a private viewing room for those interested in seeing it.

“A complaint was made about the subject matter of a collage that the student had done,” Nicole Hembroff, with the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, said. “The next day, someone came from the Lethbridge school district and took it down.”

Hembroff suggested the artwork generated controversy because it features nudity but pointed out it’s derived from famous artwork that can also be found in textbooks.

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“It was hundreds of famous paintings that were cut together and formed into larger piece. If you know art about the ages sometimes there is nudity in that art,” she said.

The artwork was part of the Art’s Alive and Well in the Schools program, through which school boards across the city choose their favourite work done by students.

The art will now be removed when Lethbridge School District No. 51 has elementary school tours at the gallery. The board issued a statement to explain its position.

“We understand there are a diversity of opinions in the community regarding art, and as a result, the piece of art in question on display at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, as part of the Art’s Alive 2016 display, will remain on display, except during elementary school tours,” the statement said.

Hembroff said the SAAG has reached a compromise with the school district so that the art can still be on public display in some instances.

“We are able to show the work when gallery schools are not happy (that it is not being displayed),” Hembroff explained. “When they are happy it’s not up in the gallery, people can view it by request.”

The grade 12 student who created the collage says the controversy surrounding his work is not going to stop him from pursuing his dream.

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He plans on attending art school in the fall.


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