According to the Guardian, the painting above (Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing by Leena McCall) was removed from the Society of Women Artists' 153rd annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries because the subject's pubic hair (seen in the full image here) was considered "disgusting" and "pornographic" by the gallery.
In a news post on her website with the headline "#eroticcensorship: Is expressing the female sense of erotic still taboo?" the artist shared her thoughts about the removal of her piece and how it relates to the themes in her art: "My work deals with female sexual and erotic identity. The fact that the gallery has deemed the work inappropriate and seen it necessary to have it removed from public display underlines the precise issue I am trying to address: how women choose to express their sexual identity beyond the male gaze.”
Society of Women Artists' executive secretary, Rebecca Cotton, told the Guardian that SWA "saw nothing wrong with" McCall's painting and that it was Mall Galleries' decision to remove the piece. The gallery issued the following statement: "As an educational arts charity, the federation has a responsibility to its trustees and to the children and vulnerable adults who use its galleries and learning centre. After a number of complaints regarding the depiction of the subject and taking account of its location en route for children to our learning centre, we requested the painting was removed."
Rowan Pelling of the Guardian questions whether or not the pubes are the problem, or if the complaints and subsequent removal of the portrait had more to do with the subject's sexuality. She punctuates the article with a reference to one of the most famous paintings of pubic hair of all time, making an important distinction between it and McCall's piece: "You wonder if the cross-legged Puritans responsible for defenestrating the portrait have ever seen Gustave Courbet's L'Origine du Monde at the Musée d'Orsay, with its splendid sprawl of black-haired vulva. After all, Courbet's carnal canvas does not include a challenging female face to bring the sitter alive, or challenge the viewer."
Join the debate on Twitter with the #eroticcensorship hashtag.