PC activists confront naked truth

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The Independent Online
First it was the page three girl, then it was Noddy. Now they have raised their sights. In their boldest attack so far, the political correctness campaigners have turned on the female nude in art.

The latest instalment of PC trench warfare is being fought in the social sciences faculty of Southampton University, which for 12 years has displayed three paintings of female nudes by Larry Wakefield, a local artist who exhibits worldwide.

Respectively entitled Urban Couple, Woman in City I and Woman in City II, the first shows Adam and Eve against a cityscape and the other two depict nude women in bedsits.

No-one batted an eyelash at the 4ft by 3ft oils which hung in the foyer, then in the conference room of the Murray building, until a newly-arrived social statistician, Maia Ni Bhrolchain, demanded they be removed. "They're paintings of naked women and I therefore feel that they have no place in a public space," she said. "Many people in the university have problems with the objectification of women."

Although her argument would logically result in the removal of a large chunk of art from the world's galleries, including work by Picasso, Gauguin and Reubens, Ms Ni Bhrolchain succeeded in recruiting 12 women staff to sign a petition calling for the paintings to go.

The democratic dons of Southampton University have debated the matter for months.

First raised at a faculty meeting, it went up to board level, then back to the faculty.

There the psychology dons reportedly refused to decide without examining the works, the politics and philosophy staff refused to vote because they thought it was so ludicrous, and the social statisticians, martialled by Ms Ni Bhrolchain, said they shouldgo.

Last night the dons gave in. The dean was dispatched to tell the artist his services were no longer required and the board meets to rubber-stamp the decision today.

Mr Wakefield, who lent the paintings at the faculty's request, is rather miffed. "The paintings are in no way a put-down of women and they're certainly not pornographic," he said. "I don't see why a minority group who are vociferous should censor works of art."

A press office spokesman said: "The issue is that the paintings were not appropriate for a teaching room in the context of decor."