Picasson nude poster removed, then reinstated, at Edinburgh Airport after passenger complaints

Jordana Divon
Shine On
August 10, 2012

How sensitive are folks to the sight of the naked human form? So sensitive that a glimpse of a woman's body painted in abstract form has caused a flap of pearl clutching and eye shielding among air travelers in Scotland.

As NBC News reports, a poster of Pablo Picasso's "Nude Woman in a Red Armchair" has offended the delicate sensibilities of a number of passengers at Edinburgh Airport.

The poster, meant to advertise the "Picasso & Modern British Art" exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, features the Spanish artist's surrealist style depicting the human anatomy — arms, breasts, and thighs are creatively curved, rounded and placed, her face half shaded in a deep blue.

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Painted in 1932, it's one of Picasso's famous Marie-Thérèse Walter portraits. Walter was the artist's French mistress and the mother of one of his children.

But these historical details were unimportant to the hordes of people who demanded the airport remove the "scandalous" image from sight.

And at first, they complied. Airport officials covered the poster and requested a different, less voluptuous one from the museum.

That move did not go over well with John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland.

"It is obviously bizarre that all kinds of images of women in various states of dress and undress can be used in contemporary advertising without comment, but somehow a painted nude by one of the world's most famous artists is found to be disturbing and has to be removed," he tells the BBC.

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By Wednesday, red-faced airport brass seemed to shift over to Team Leighton, restoring the poster to its original spot.

"The initial decision was a reaction to passenger feedback, which we do always take seriously. However on reflection, we are more than happy to display the image in the terminal and we'd like to apologize - particularly to the exhibition organizers - for the confusion," an airport spokesperson writes in a statement to NBC News.

While censorship of the naked body is common in other parts of the world, Europe has generally taken a more progressive, sophisticated approach to nudity, particularly in the fine arts — a factor that renders the Edinburgh Airport ado all the more surprising.

But Canadians will likely recall our own fine arts flap up earlier this year.

A Kingston, Ont. library covered up Margaret Sutherland's satirical portrait of a nude Stephen Harper any time children were present in the room.

Sutherland vented her anger over the censorship to various online outlets.

What do you think? Should all nudes — even creative abstract ones — be kept out of public view, or is this a case of the PC police at its worst?

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