THE visual arts industry is appalled by a proposal to apply a classification scheme to artworks exhibited in galleries across the nation.
A Senate committee review of the national classification scheme has recommended controversial artwork, such as Bill Henson's divisive images of children, be subject to the same classifications as movies, TV and video games.
Debate raged yesterday about the recommended measure, which the art industry fears may lead to unnecessary censorship.
Paul Greenaway, who runs Greenaway Art Gallery in Adelaide, labelled the senate committee recommendation "an appalling suggestion".
"There is a line obviously that public institutions have to tread because they have a very general audience," he said. "(But) You're seeing it within context, you're looking at it in a fine art context."
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The 200-page report, released late last week by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, says the defence of "artistic merit" is not enough to allow some controversial works of art to be exhibited, particularly when it comes to those that depict children.
Chairman Tasmanian senator Guy Barnett said the current classification system was "broken" and "flawed" and the recommendation was striving for uniformity across all media platforms. "Visual arts should not be exempt from our criminal laws and our anti-pornography laws," he said.
"Bureaucracy out of control"
The industry, however, says self-censorship is enough, with many galleries posting warning signs when explicit or possibly confrontational works are on display.
Art Gallery of SA director Nick Mitzevich said a "one size fits all" approach to classification might be damaging to the industry. "Most of the visual arts industry censors itself and understands the moral compass of the industry," he said. "I think there's little evidence to support such a draconian approach - a one size fits all. It seems it's bureaucracy out of control."