Duo's nude art advert upheld

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The Independent Online

Media Correspondent

The debate over nudity in advertising - and art - reignited yesterday when the Advertising Standards Authority refused to uphold complaints that Gilbert and George's The Naked Shit Pictures were offensive.

The ageing duo's controversial exhibition last August at the South London Gallery featured 16 enormous photographs of excrement and pictures of the artists naked, one showing their anuses.

It was promoted with an advert showing a full-frontal nude photograph of Gilbert and George in both Time Out, the London listings magazine, and The Big Issue, which campaigns for the homeless.

Unfortunately, the explicit picture attracted the ire of the home counties - Hampshire and Berkshire, to be specific - where two complainants objected to the title of the exhibition and to the advert for it.

The ASA did not uphold their complaints. "The advertisers believed that nudity, a recurrent theme in artistic expression throughout the history of art, was not generally thought offensive," it said.

"They said the title of the exhibition was included in the advertisement partly to reflect the type of art on show, which pictured naked people and excrement."

Ironically, the finding could be viewed as a defeat for the pair, who for years have tried to shock the art world and the public. This has led them to the public lavatory, and associated images of masturbation.

A second ASA ruling criticised Berlei for suggesting sports bras could prevent breasts drooping in later life. Its advertisement asked: "If you don't wear a Berlei sports bra what shape will you be in?" and featured an illustration of a skipping rope shaped to outline a pair of sagging breasts.

Twenty complainants argued that the illustration was offensive and that the sports bras could not prevent drooping in the long term.

Although the advertisers submitted a survey showing that 80 per cent of GPs agreed that sports bras could alleviate drooping breasts, the ASA said there was insufficient evidence.