Offense taken…

It was with a mixture of disbelief,  a feeling of déjà vu and, indeed, some detached amusement at the irony of it all, that I read this morning Rowan Pelling’s article concerning the removal of Leena McCall’s Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing from the Society of Women Artists’ 153rd annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries. The portrait was deemed too ”pornographic” for the sensitive nature of some of the gallery’s clientèle, which prompted its removal. The gallery issued the following statement:



·      The painting by Leena McCall was hung in an exhibition organised, selected and funded by the Society of Women Artists, who have hired the Mall Galleries (run by the Federation of British Artists) for their annual exhibition.

·      The Mall Galleries played no part in its selection or hanging.

·      As an educational arts charity, the Federation has a responsibility to its Trustees and to the children and vulnerable adults who use its Galleries and Learning Centre. After a number of complaints regarding the depiction of the subject and taking account of its location en route for children to our Learning Centre, we requested the painting was removed.  The Society of Women Artists made no objection and replaced it with another painting, also depicting a female nude.

Mall Galleries / Federation of British Artists

It was thus, in this day and age, that the portrait of Ms Ruby May went down in history as ”unsuitable for children and vulnerable adults”.


Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing by Leena McCall

Leena McCall, Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing (2014)

The offensive painting was replaced by another nude(!). I’m not sure which one was deemed safe – perhaps one like this:


f boucher

François Boucher, Vénus jouant avec deux colombes (1777)

This one would surely pass censorship?:



Lucian Freud, Standing by the Rags (1988–9)

What (hypocritical) part of our society is scandalized by contemporary erotic portraiture, I wonder? Might it be the very same that – far from offended – has been devouring steadily, greedily and unapologetically one-hundred-million copies of the EL James’s erotic trilogy, out of which over twenty-seven-million of the books  in the UK and Commonwealth countries alone?

50 Shades of Grey / NO OFFENCE(?!?)

Update 09th July 2014 – News from Leena McCall’s website:

International Twitter debate #eroticcensorship leads to re-hang of ‘Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing’ 

Leena McCall is pleased to announce, a work of art that was removed from the Society of Women Artists’ 153rd annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries, is to be exhibited at The Leyden Gallery, London.

The painting “Ms Ruby May, Standing’ was selected by the Society for Women Artists (SWA) for their 153rd annual exhibition and subsequently removed by the Mall Gallery for being deemed ‘too pornographic and disgusting’.

The removal of Leena McCall’s erotic and feminine portrayal of Ms Ruby May, a clothed femme fatale, sparked a Twitter campaign asking people to debate #eroticcensorship, a conversation that has ignited an international response of support, concern and disagreement.

McCall was approached by the Leyden Gallery and the painting is being made accessible to the public at the gallery from 11th July until 26th July.

Mc Call said:  “I’m glad my painting will be available for public viewing, after its removal from the Mall Galleries and I am grateful to the Leyden Gallery for showing it.  Women’s sexual identity is clearly a topic that has sparked considerable discussion online and I am keen to work with the Leyden Gallery to give that discussion a forum for debate.”

Adriana Cerne, Leyden Gallery said:  “Leyden Gallery is a relatively new London Art Gallery who actively re-dress the negative imbalance of women in art exhibitions.   Sixteen out of twenty-four artists currently on show in their Summer Salon are women. With the eagerly awaited inclusion of Leena McCall’s painting this will now be seventeen.

“We look forward to the debates that will rightly follow in the wake of the decision to remove this painting on the grounds of it being ‘pornographic’ and ‘disgusting’.”

London and Berlin based visual artist, Leena McCall is interested in exploring the female sense of erotic and how women choose to express their erotic identity.

‘Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing’ will be available to view along side other art works at The Leyden Gallery from Friday 11 -26 July.



17 thoughts on “Offense taken…

  1. Sometimes women can be our own worst enemy!!! Ridiculous reason for removing this but thankfully many more people will now get to see it due to all the fuss. What’s the betting the children they are “protecting” are spending many hours of their young lives watching Rihanna,Miley etc gyrating and twerking without a hint of censorship…..sometimes I just want to scream!

  2. What on earth? Seriously now? I was just reading the other comments as well… “It’s an added irony that her work should be removed from an all-female exhibition, curated by women.” (extract from the article in The Guardian)??? This is just ridiculous…

    • Actually, it has been specified that it was removed by the Mall Galleries WITHOUT even consulting the SWA that had selected the painting! Not only did the gallery not respect the artist/her work, they also ignored the Association that hired the space! WTF?!

  3. Even better: “It’s an added irony that her work should be removed from an all-female exhibition, curated by women.” (extract from the article in The Guardian)

    • Yeah, that’s the biggest irony of all in this story!. Get blown by your own… On the other hand the painting is gaining momentum, partly thanks to on-line social media and articles.. I think Ms Ruby May’s reputation will be restored before long!

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