A porn cocktail without the fizz

THERE are not many museums that welcome the visitor with a 5ft gold penis in the entrance hall. But then there are not many museums that are, like Copenhagen's new Museum of Erotica, entirely devoted to pornography.

The museum, which opened last year, is the creation of Ole Ege, a photographer and film- maker who wanted a more permanent monument to his art. There are videos, slide shows, postcards, magazines, cases of exhibits and displays of models in various states of undress.

From Greek vases with well- endowed satyrs to Renoir's 'Odalisque', the museum takes a broad sweep of history and focuses on one aspect: sex. The private lives of famous figures are investigated - apparently Hitler had a huge pornography collection - and Fanny Hill gets a whole room to herself. Even Christine Keeler has a special mention.

The erotic imagination really got going in the 19th century, with the invention of photography. Almost as soon as the camera was invented, it seems, it was being used to make dirty postcards. Some of the exhibits are extremely bizarre. One room is entitled simply 'Dildo World'. Another case had labels only in Danish and I could not begin to imagine what its strange contents were used for.

Denmark is the ideal place for a museum such as this. The country takes a relaxed attitude towards sex, and has long been home to a flourishing industry. It has the most liberal laws in Europe on pornography, and yet it is these laws, introduced in 1969, which seem to have dealt the death blow to Denmark's pornographic imagination.

On the museum's fourth floor, images of the past meet those of the present. On one screen, an antique film flickers, showing scantily clad women frolicking innocently on a beach. The others show far more graphic images, and the conclusion is obvious: modern pornographic films are simply not very good. Plot no longer exists, characterisation is to say the least limited, and there is very little humour. An unrelieved diet of fleshy close-ups becomes tedious. Pornography is not what it used to be.

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