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The controversy ends
The University of Central England in Birmingham
expressed its delight that the Crown Prosecution Service has reached a
decision not to prosecute following confiscation of the book, Mapplethorpe,
from the University's library stock in October 1997. The decision not to
prosecute brings to an end a year of uncertainty for the University,
during which time students have been denied access to vital materials
which form an important part of the art and design curriculum. The
outcome is particularly good news for the many staff and students within
UCE's Institute of Art and Design as they embark on a new academic year
at the University.
The history ...
The Library of The University
of Central England in Birmingham was 'raided' by the West Midlands
Police Paedophile and Pornography Squad who confiscated a book about
Robert Mapplethorpe and his work. Parts of the book had been declared
obscene. The University's Vice-Chancellor was under the threat of
imprisonment unless he agreed to the destruction of portions of the
book. The story is summarised below.
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- The University Library owns a copy of the book
Mapplethorpe. This is a collection of the works of Robert
Mapplethorpe with an introduction by Arthur C. Danto.
- A third year student in UCE's
Institute of Art and Design, intended to use photographs of
images from the book in a major piece of course work entitled 'Fine
Art versus Pornography.' The film was taken to a local chemist [i.e.
pharmacy or drug store] for developing.
- The chemist forwarded the negatives to the
- The police confiscated the book from Library
stock and referred it to the Crown Prosecution Service for a
decision on whether the work contravened the UK
Obscene Publications Act.
- The University was informed that two
photographs in the book were obscene and would not be returned to
the Library unless these pages were excised.
- On Monday 9th of
March, local police interviewed a student from the University's
Institute of Art and Design. [The details are in
Release 2477.] The student, who was accompanied by UCE's legal
advisors, Shakespeares, was asked to give a witness account of the
events leading up to the confiscation of Mapplethorpe.
- Dr. Peter Knight,
the Vice-Chancellor, was interviewed by the West Midlands Police at
1.30pm on Wednesday 18th March. Further information is at
- On Friday 20th March the
Senate of UCE decided that 'principles are priceless' and fully
supported the Vice-Chancellor in his defence of freedom of inquiry
as essential to higher education and his refusal to allow the
destruction of University property. Further details are at
- Following the resolution
passed by the Emergency meeting of Senate held on Friday 20th March
1998 at UCE, the Deputy Chairman, Professor Phil Walkling, wrote to
the Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, Secretary of State for Education and
Employment, and the Rt Hon Chris Smith MP, Secretary of State for
Culture, Media and Sport.
Mapplethorpe, by Robert Mapplethorpe with an
introduction by Arthur C. Danto. 1992. Published in the UK by Jonathan
Cape, £75.00, 022403605x, and in the USA by Random House, $125.00,
0679408045. 400 pages, 275 duotone plates, 298 x 311 mm, hardback.
The book claims to be a definitive collection of Mapplethorpe's
black-and-white photographs, drawing on the full range of his work from
the early Polaroids to the haunting self-portraits taken shortly before
his death. It was prepared in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe
Foundation, which was established by the artist to provide funds for
AIDS research and photographic projects. [Top of Page]
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