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Barry Keldoulis is Fucked

Last week Geoff Newton had a small exhibition of Paul Yore’s textile work at his Melbourne gallery, Neon Parc. Yore’s work reminded me of the art of English Turner Prize-winning artist, Chris Ofili for there is the same intensity, insanity and psychedelic intensity of both of their vision complete with sequins and vibrant colours. It was a chance for Melbourne to see it before the work was due to go up to Sydney for the Sydney Contemporary, Sydney’s new international art fair.

Paul Yore, "Fountain of Knowledge", 2013

Paul Yore, “Fountain of Knowledge”, 2013

Then a few hours before its VIP preview Sydney Contemporary announced that it would not be showing Paul Yore’s work. Sydney Contemporary’s Director Barry Keldoulis made the following statement: “Sydney Contemporary supports artists and their practice, but we respect and work within the laws of the jurisdiction. Our decision with regard to the installation is a about the law of the land and they are on the wrong side of it. When we saw the work we recognised the issues and sought legal advice which confirmed the work offends various relevant provisions in the Crimes Act Legislation in NSW. We regret having had to make the decision but have no doubt it’s in the best interests of all the artists and galleries showing at Sydney Contemporary 13.”

Keldoulis’s statement is overly definite (“no doubt”, “they are on the wrong side of it”) and at the same time vague (“various relevant provisions”). It implies that nobody at Sydney Contemporary had seen Paul Yore’s work before (very unlikely) and that censorship is “in the best interests of all the artists and galleries showing” (again very unlikely). We don’t know what issues Keldoulis “recognized” and why these same issues were not recognized when Paul Yore exhibited the some of the same work at Neon Parc, Ballart Art Gallery or the Melbourne Art Fair.Paul Yore, "Fountain of Knowledge", 2013 detail

The Crimes Act in NSW does refer to “blasphemous libel” but that was last successfully prosecuted in 1871. Blasphemy is not in the Crimes Act of Victoria and this might explain why there was no police raid on Neon Parc or the Ballart Art Gallery when one of the works removed from Sydney Contemporary was exhibited there. (Not that the Victoria Police regularly attend art galleries to check – they only do that when prompted by right wing scum.) I’m sure that Paul Yore’s work “Fountain of Knowledge” could be regarded as blasphemous libel (if you wanted to) but that would need to be proven in court. Keldoulis is libellous in claiming that there is “no doubt” that Paul Yore’s art is criminal.

P.S. (20/9/13) Subsequent to publishing this blog post Keldoulis provided some degree of clarification as to what part of Crimes Act he was referring to. NSW has laws about the depiction of children. Arts Law website states: “As at 1 March 2013, genuine artistic purpose is no longer a defence to the offences of production, dissemination, and possession of material that depicts children pornographically.” Under this yet untested law “pornographically” is defined very broadly as “in a sexual context”.

P.S. (29/9/13) Keldoulis and his legal team also removed the work of Queensland artist Tyza Stewart. Do the directors of art fairs normally tour the yet to be opened fair with a barrister to check if the art is legal? Or is Australia or Keldoulis abnormal?

P.S. (2/12/15) To be fair to Keldoulis you can read his response my questions in a blog post: Censorship, Barry Keldoulis and Paul Yore. To be fair to Paul Yore in 2013 the Australian Classification Board classified Yore’s  installation, Everything is Fucked as “Classification 1, Restricted, suitable for people over the age of 18” meaning that it is definitely not as Keldoulis maintained illegal.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

5 responses to “Barry Keldoulis is Fucked

  • Censorship, Barry Keldoulis and Paul Yore | Black Mark

    […] to the Melbourne Art Fair I asked Barry Keldoulis some questions about the censorship of art by Paul Yore and Tyza Stewart at Sydney Contemporary in 2013 and assured  him that his replies would be printed in […]

  • Rodney Scherer

    The Crimes Act in NSW does refer to “blasphemous libel” but that was last successfully prosecuted in 1871. ?? I think you may find the is a little out of date! Mike Brown Sydney 1966 Read on.
    “The cloak of cultural amnesia that surrounds Brown troubled Haese. ”He’s an historical figure: the only Australian artist who has been successfully prosecuted for obscenity [in 1966 – his sentence of three months hard labor was reduced to a $20 fine on later appeal]. People remember [the controversy surrounding] Oz magazine but forget Brown. He wasn’t just being a naughty boy. It was a serious civil liberties crusade.”

    A brush with Rebellion By Liza Power 12 November 2011 Sydney morning herald!

    • Mark Holsworth

      Yes, it was probably the legislation that was passed in NSW after Bill Henson fiasco rather than blasphemous libel. Liz Power is right that Brown’s prosecution was because he was engaged in a civil liberties crusade rather than obscenity. Australia law does not tolerate civil liberty crusaders.

    • Rodney Scherer

      I’m not a law historian Mark. All I know is Mick Brown is the only Australian Artist to be charged with Obscenity laws The Henson Fiasco was more recent and he doesn’t have a conviction against his name. All that aside what do think of Barry Keldoulis becoming the new leader of the Arts Party? In politics, you do well if you run with the fox and the hounds!

    • Mark Holsworth

      Point taken, Henson and Paul Yore don’t have convictions, the attacks on them are rear-gaurd actions. I haven’t heard anything about the Arts Party but I wouldn’t trust Keldoulis with my civil or human rights.

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