Now & Then: Indecent assault

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The Independent Online
June 1944: George Orwell reviews Salvador Dali's autobiography for a book of essays. The review is withdrawn by his publishers at the last moment on grounds of obscenity:

'. . . you have here a direct, unmistakable assault on sanity and decency; and even - since some of Dali's pictures would tend to poison the imagination like a pornographic postcard - on life itself. What Dali has done and what he has imagined is debatable, but in his outlook, his character, the bedrock decency of a human being does not exist. He is as antisocial as a flea. Clearly such people are undesirable, and a society in which they can flourish has something wrong with it.

'. . . what the defenders of Dali are claiming is a kind of benefit of clergy. The artist is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word 'art' and everything is OK. Rotting corpses with snails crawling over them are OK; kicking little girls on the head is OK; even a film like L'Age d'Or (which shows a woman defecating - Orwell's footnote) is OK. . . . One ought to be able to hold in one's head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being. Not . . . that Dali's autobiography or his pictures ought to be suppressed.'

February, 1993: Two paintings by Glenn Brown, runner-up in this year's Barclays Young Artist Award, are removed from the Serpentine Gallery, after Salvador Dali's estate claims copyright infringement. Brown's paintings are alleged to be copies of Dali's 'Soft Construction of Boiled Beans', and 'The Great Masturbator'.

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