Airport U-turn on censored Picasso nude after blast from arts chiefs

Picasso's Nude Woman in a Red Armchair

Picasso's Nude Woman in a Red Armchair

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EDINBURGH Airport has reversed its controversial decision to cover up a Picasso nude displayed in a terminal building following criticism from arts chiefs.

The portrait of the naked woman, advertising a Picasso exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, had originally been censored after attracting a string of complaints from offended passengers.

But it has now been re-instated amid apologies from red-faced airport chiefs over the “confusion” caused.

The contentious image entitled Nude Woman in a Red Armchair, widely regarded as one of the artist’s most sensuous works, had been covered with a white sheet after drawing around ten complaints, it is understood. A swift U-turn was made yesterday, however, after gallery chiefs branded the move “bizarre”.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said the original decision had been taken in reaction to “passenger feedback” and that complaints were “always take[n] seriously”.

“We have now reviewed our original decision and reinstated the image. On reflection, we are more than happy to display the image in the terminal and we’d like to apologise – particularly to the exhibition organisers – for the confusion.

“As well as returning the image to its original display, we also hope that the interest assists in further promoting the Picasso and Modern British Art exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to the many visitors in Edinburgh at the moment.”

Arts promoter Richard Demarco said the ban “could only happen in Edinburgh”.

He said: “Shakespeare is obscene, so is Burns, and so is Picasso. The higher the art, the more guarantee you will have to deal with a complaint about indecency.

“Sadly, the Edinburgh Festival is about entertainment. Art and culture have nothing to do with entertainment. If you don’t want unqualified indecency, don’t choose a genius like Picasso.”

John Leighton, director-
general of the National Galleries of Scotland, said the move to ban the image had been “bizzare”.

He said: “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.

“I hope that the public will come and see the real thing at the Gallery of Modern Art which is a joyous and affectionate portrait of one of Picasso’s favourite models – an image that has been shown around the world.”

The 1932 painting, valued at £68 million, depicts Picasso’s mistress Marie-Therese Walter, and was created in his studio near Paris.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com