Art Monthly – Nude Girl Cover

A lot of artists are cheeky trouble makers that delight in upsetting people that like their todays and tomorrows to be all the same. A lot of Australians are like that too; they make fun of people that are too serious and they seem to enjoy getting into trouble.

nude girl magazine cover

The front cover of Art Monthly in Australia this month shows a magazine editor poking a stick at the nest of a lot of noisy hornets. After the recent uproar over the Bill Henson teen photos in Australia, there’s only one reason to be publishing a cover with a naked young girl on it, which is to create controversy.

From the editorial of Art Monthly Australia..
“As Donald Brook argues, it should never be a question of art or pornography, but rather: ‘Should works of art enjoy a general indulgence, recognised in law, so that even culpably pornographic works of art like those on the walls of brothels in Pompeii may sometimes be tolerated?’ The past few weeks in Australia have certainly exposed just how timid and intolerant our society seems to have become, even while Henson is now free to show his work.”

The image is called “Olympia as Lewis Carroll’s Beatrice Hatch before White Cliffs” by Polixeni Papapetrou (the mother of the girl in the photo). Olympia Nelson was 6 years old when the photo was taken and is now 11 years old.

child nudity photo
The Sydney Morning Herald did a report on the story (photo by Penny Stephens showing Olympia Nelson with her mother, father, brother and the nude picture)..
“THE girl at the centre of the latest controversy over child nudity in art said yesterday that she was “really, really offended” at comments by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, that he “cannot stand” the naked image of her, aged six, on the cover of an art magazine.” SMH

Politicians are sharing their opinions on the magazine cover with the Australian opposition leader, Brendan Nelson saying “If you were sitting on a bus and the person next to you turned on their laptop and this was the screensaver, you would be very concerned. What these people have done in this publication and using the photographs of this child in this way is send a two-fingered salute to the rest of society.”

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Anonymous says:

    And the problem is?

  2. Not unlike Geordie’s who take the piss out of people who take themselves too seriously.

    An anon said, “and the problem is”


  3. Anonymous says:

    It isn’t the content that is at issue, it seems. Rather the context. Children have been running around nude since the dawn of time. So the content isn’t offensive per se. However, she isn’t running on a beach or playing in a wading pool. Rather, she is posed provocatively. The overriding issue is the mother’s intent. Whether true for the mother’s case or not, adults in our culture tend to exploit things–even their own childre(ie, the drug dealer who fronts their kids to avoid police intervention)–for personal gain. The mother has gotten huge exposure of her work as a result of the photo, and, again, whether she planned it or not, she is suspect. Artists, as the mother, I am sure, fancies herself–despite the overall low quality of the photo–are in fact troublemakers by nature. It seems that they cross a line when they use an 11 year old offspring as a tool for it.

  4. I dont find the girls pose at all provoctive, she is just sitting there, though rather stiffly for a seven year old. While we must be careful with matters concerning our children, they are NOT consenting adults, even if the mother says OK, hell, so did the girl R Kelly pissed on and kids Michael Jackson and Roman Polanski molested.
    But this is rather harmless, hardly kid porn. As a father, I dont care about what adults do behind closed doors, or outside of them as long as not illegal or being a dumbass exhibitionist. Even though that is often legal, still have the right of expression to tell THEM they are being idiots.
    I dont find any of the photos or artwork you are having issues over down there offensive, except in terms of creativity and taste. Pretty dumb stuff, hardly adding to world culture.

  5. One good thing about the piece is that it is getting people to notice and talk about art. I believe dialog is always the hope for any artist creating any work.

  6. I personally don’t see this photo as pornographic but there are people out there who would see any child as an object to prey upon and in this way, I would never put a child of mine in this position.
    I have photographed children in relationship to war and never would have compromised the children in any way that would make them a target for pediphiles
    this is what we must never be naive in our art or work with children

  7. i think its a shame some people are not bothering to consider the merits of the project when forming their opinions

    there is something to be said for context and intentions

  8. Morgan, great link, thanks for sharing. I just had a discussion with a friend who as a mother is quite disturbed by the photograph. I don’t want to try to change her mind, as I respect her concerns, but I do agree. It is important to look at context and intent. While this type of work is not really my cup of tea I find it deeply concerning that any artist should be demonized and their work censored based on perception and/or dislike of the work.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is disgusting, exposing children like this, they need to be put in jail.

  10. donald frazell says:

    Intent means nothing, execution is everything. Yes, purpose is essential, but if it failes in execution it means nothing. Both teh photo and the painting are rather mediocred works of “art”. Just pictures to me, and kids get naked too. Next you will claim the photo from the Vietnam War of a young girl naked with napalm burns is porno. You cant legislate how people take things, being anal and prudish are signs for psychological issues, whether hidden in overprotective(read possessive) religous dogmas or not.
    But again, dont find either worth discussing in art terms, very average, should be in some grandmas gallery actually, would love it up in Cambria. This is a political issues, and certain personality types have and will always exist. Which way the pendulum swings varies, but need to get back to basics of art, this is a sideshow.

  11. donald frazell says:

    Checked out that website, Carrols photos are very good, even the painting over them is at a higher level than this woman did of her own daughter. I find them closer to Balthus than Carrol, the girl is stiff, far too self conscious, and while useful in bringing out these old photos, and demonstrating their superiority, it is still a tempest in a teapot. Agree, no child molester would be interested, got far more graphic works than that out their, doesnt feed into the demented psychology of a predator.

  12. Anonymous says:

    It is all about context. While it is not inappropriate to rub sunblock on your girlfriends thigh at the beach, if you tried it at a dinner party it is inappropriate. The same goes in this situation. Here is a young nude posed in a non-sexual way on the cover of AN ART MAGAZINE. This argument has been going on since Brooke Shields’ “Pretty Baby” . People have become too easily offended in todays society.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I’ll say this as delicate as I can, in hopes to not offend anyone:

    Anyone can take any photo of a child, whether nude or not, and fantasize over them in the most cruelest way. It does not matter how protective we think we are, we cannot shut down the minds of those who will prey on the young. It has been that way for years, and will continue to be that way for years to come. For us to run in panic over a nude photo of a child, seems a bit childish in itself.

    Yes, there should be guidelines. And yes, there should be a bit of discretion from what the artist or photographer’s intent should be. But even if we take precautions, every person who views a nude image will come to a different conclusion as to its intent.

    We are a society of paranoids. Anything that COULD be construed as bad or horrible for us, winds up causing panic.

    To be more direct to this photo, I don’t think that it violates any rules or laws that could categorize this as pornography. If someone can point out the infraction of the law, then do so. But look at it closely… No law has been broken.

    Protect the youth, yes. Destroy art because of our paranoia, I think not.

  14. Anon wrote “We are a society of paranoids. Anything that COULD be construed as bad or horrible for us, winds up causing panic.”

    I agree with what anon wrote… it’s very true when you stop to think abou it. Well said.

  15. Anonymous says:

    We got REAL panic now, as Indymac has been taken over by the feds, and a bank run is going on to check savings. The second financial disaster by a Bush, with daddies deregulating the Savings and Loans costing us about $3oo BILLION. And the current subprime caused by lil Bush inaction, the private sector is FAR less effecient in many things, and must have guidelines, as greed and fear rule the market.
    The art market also, with Russian monopolist thieves now bankrollin the decadent art events.
    A rebellions must start NOW. Art is dead, decadent self absorbed and arrogant. It is the same as what Cezanne tore down, rise up, NOW. That world destroyed itself in WWI,and caused the reactions that led to WWII and the Cold war. This childerns nonsense is a diversion as we are being led like the lemmings we are. Be truly individual, speak up. Times are chaning, change to it, or decay. Now is the time to choose.

  16. Anonymous says:

    “she is posed provocatively”

    Maybe in your eyes. That is a classic pose. There is nothing sexual or provocative about it. In my opinion the people who get upset and call images like that sexual or provocative do so out of guilt. I think there are many closet pedophiles out there.

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