London Judge Rules Artworks by Graham Ovenden Must Be Destroyed

A work Princess Diana commissioned escaped the judgment.

Graham Ovenden.
Image: Courtesy of
Graham Ovendon and one of his paintings. <br>Photo via the <i>Independent</i>.

Graham Ovenden and one of his paintings.
Photo via the Independent.

Artworks by an English artist convicted of pedophilia should pay the ultimate price, says a London judge who ruled that his paintings and photographs of naked or partially naked children are not fit for public or private eyes.

Painter Graham Ovenden’s collection includes photographs and paintings by artists including 19th-century figures like French artist Pierre Louys and German-born artist Wilhelm von Pluschow. Those objects, as well as Ovenden’s works, must be destroyed, said District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe at Hammersmith Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately,” Judge Roscoe told the court, “I am going to invite the wrath of the art world because in my view they are indecent,” according to the Independent.

Ovenden, 72, was convicted in 2013 of having molested children who posed for him during the 1970s and ‘80s. He served more than two years in jail, and maintains his innocence.

“You are going to be looked on as the assholes of the world,” Ovenden told police officers in court, according to the Telegraph.

The septuagenarian artist seemed to imply that the judge was letting provenance get in the way of her legal judgments by pointing out that she deemed inoffensive one of his paintings, showing a young girl’s bare behind, which Diana, the late Princess of Wales, once commissioned to raise funds for a charitable cause.

He also pointed out that a Louys photograph showed a Victorian-era child prostitute and had been in numerous museum exhibitions.

The convictions placed British museums holding works by Ovenden in a sticky situation, having to decide whether to publish the works on their websites or put them on public display. Tate Britain briefly removed all the artist’s works from its site but later reinstated abstract works from before the period during which the abuses are alleged to have occurred. However, visitors can still make an appointment to view the works at Tate Britain’s prints and drawings rooms. The Victoria and Albert Museum removed more than half of its 14 Ovenden works from its website.

“I am no judge of art or artistic merit,” said Judge Roscoe. “I am assessing the images upon the basis of the recognized standards of propriety that exist today,” according to the Independent.

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