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Art Gallery of SA under fire over ‘perverse’ sculptures

An Adelaide MP has called for an “adults only” area to display two Art Gallery of South Australia sculptures, as a Christian group demands the state government threaten funding over “perverse” works.

May 23, 2024, updated May 23, 2024
Big Mother (left) and Buck with Cigar (right) on display at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Photo: Facebook

Big Mother (left) and Buck with Cigar (right) on display at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Photo: Facebook

One Nation MLC Sarah Game has launched a petition calling on the Art Gallery to “relocate inappropriate statues to protect children”.

Game posted on Facebook two sculptures she believes are inappropriate: Marc Quinn’s Buck with Cigar (2009) and Patricia Piccinini’s Big Mother (2005).

Buck with Cigar is a bronze statue of American sex educator and former porn actor Buck Angel, a transgender man. The sculpture has been on display in the main gallery since 2011. Angel visited the sculpture in 2014 three years after the gallery purchased it for a reported $220,000.

Big Mother has been on intermittent display since 2010 and depicts a genetically engineered animal breastfeeding a newborn baby. The sculpture was inspired by the story of a female baboon who, after the death of her own baby, abducted a human infant.

Game said the sculptures presented “quite strong sexual imagery without warning” and it was “taking away the right of parents to decide how they want to raise their kids and what they want to expose their kids to”.

“I think it needs to be in an adults only area,” she said.

“Anyone who specifically wants to show their children that – I think that’s very strange indeed to be honest.

“Whoever’s decided on that artwork has completely misread public sentiment by thinking that they want to walk in and just be sort of suddenly surprised with what I think many would agree is confronting and confusing imagery for a child.”

Game said she had been contacted by Christian and Islamic groups about the displays.

“I think you could see one of those statues that looks to be some kind of beast, which seems to be breastfeeding some kind of human baby,” she said.

“And it’s placed right next to Mother Mary and baby Jesus classical artwork.

“It’s been expressed to me that that’s deeply, deeply offensive.”

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Art Gallery SA

Big Mother (2009) in front of Virgin and Baby (1888). Photo: Facebook

FamilyVoice Australia, previously known as Festival of Light Australia, today urged Premier Peter Malinauskas to “protect children from harmful exposure to highly offensive and perverse exhibits” at AGSA.

“Families with young children should enjoy the freedom to move around the Art Gallery without fear of exposure to highly offensive and perverse statues,” said spokesman David d’Lima.

“We welcome the concern raised by One Nation and we urge the ALP government to demand the Art Gallery clean up its exhibits, if necessary with the threat of cutting its public funding.

“The same Premier who is rightly worried about damage done to young people by the content on mobile phones must also be concerned about the payment of taxpayer dollars on perversity in the Art Gallery.”

The Art Gallery of SA said it would not move the works.

“Art at AGSA is curated to spark conversation and debate, and sometimes may be controversial,” it said in a statement.

“It is the role of artists and galleries like AGSA to encourage viewers to see the world, culture, and politics from different perspectives.

“AGSA is a proud melting pot of artistic cultural and intellectual views. We acknowledge that art is often the best platform for having challenging conversations.

“We at AGSA firmly support the rights of artists. We also believe in preserving and celebrating diverse cultural expressions, and would not remove a work from public display.”

The Art Gallery also said it already issues sensory, cultural and content warnings “when required” and encourages pre-visits from teachers and educators who are planning to take school groups.

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