Note: As a follow-up to an article from The News Minute regarding Italy’s Prime Minister’s decision to cover nude statues during the visit of Iran’s President, this piece in The Washington Post arose today speaking to various conservative perceptions of nude art around the world, not just in any one particular area, religion or culture.
The prudishness about nude statues isn’t limited to the Islamic world. Here are just a few other examples: In 2012, a five star hotel in Shanghai covered up two statues of a man and a woman after Internet users criticized them as pornographic. In 2005, the mayor of Canadian city Penticton insisted on covering the genitalia of a newly installed nude statue with a metal plate (even after the plate was taken off, persistent attempts to vandalize the statue’s genitalia led to it being moved). In 1995, Hong Kong, then still a British colony, covered up a statue of a life-size nude man after a court declared the artwork obscene, outraging art lovers. “The emphasis is on the face, not the genitals,” a frustrated legislator told reporters at the time (the decision was later reversed).
Unsurprisingly, Americans can get offended by statues depicting naked people, too. In 2004, a garden center in Tennessee covered up a number of classical-style nude statues with what the Associated Press described as “two-piece crimson velvet sarongs” after complaints from the public (the center later said that the newly-clad statues were helping sales). In 2002, the U.S. Justice Department was reported to have spent $8,000 on curtains to hide a number of nude statues from photo ops, only to have them removed in 2005. There were calls, ultimately unheeded, to clothe two nude statues outside the entrance of the L.A. Coliseum ahead of the 1996 Olympic games.
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