Phallus chair has 'little merit'

TOM HUNT
Last updated 13:38 05/11/2012
Sex-a-cise
MATT DUNCAN/Fairfax NZ
Jason Beca's artwork Sex-a-size, an abdominal machine with a wooden penis, is too risque for Pataka.

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An art historian has weighed in on life's big question - when is a penis art and when is it porn?

Art historian John Stringer has lent his support to a decision to remove the piece Sex-a-size by Kapiti artist Jason Beca from an art exhibition at Porirua's Pataka Museum.

Beca, who courted controversy when his ''erotic chair'' went on display at the museum last year, has now created an abdominal machine with a wooden phallus attached.

Before being removed it was displayed in an area of the museum with no warning that the exhibition was R18.

Stringer points out that penises appear in art, ranging from Maori sculpture to Michelangelo's David, and are not considered obscene.

''It is about context. Beca's 'art' is silly and provocative with little artistic merit.

''It is merely sexualised erotica and has little merit.''

Titahi Bay resident Lea Thoms said she was horrified when she and three of her children, aged between 6 and 20 months, came across the exhibit last week.

"It looked like some sort of torture contraption. I didn't know what to do, " she said.

"I was completely, absolutely, stunned into silence."

She was not offended by the exhibit, but was unimpressed with the lack of warning.

Pataka general manager Darcy Nicholas agreed.

"I've been part of the arts scene for a long time, and every now and then, someone does something funny that you can laugh about. But this piece, I think, was far too graphic."

Mr Nicholas said he laid eyes on Beca's work late on Thursday and sent an email to staff first thing on Friday asking to have it removed.

"It's not fair on the other artists for people to be distracted by a large wooden penis, which totally takes away from the quality of the other work there."

Beca said he was surprised it took so long for Mr Nicholas to see Sex-a-size, as he set it up on Monday.

"I did say when I dropped it off that maybe they should have a sign up to warn people."

He claimed the gallery wanted a "show-stopper", which is why he brought it in.

"It cleared a few people from the room when I took it in there . . . it did what it was intended to do."

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- The Dominion Post

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