After a year out on loan Mapplethorpe book is set to return to library shelves

Mapplethorpe Censored!

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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.
Media Release 2562

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.
  • 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 Birmingham 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 police.
  • 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. Media Release 2472
  • On Monday 9th of March, local police interviewed a student from the University's Institute of Art and Design. [The details are in Media 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 Media Release 2482.
  • 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 Media Release 2485
  • 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. Media Release 2486
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The Book

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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