Goodman Gallery appeals ‘Spear’ rating

The Goodman Gallery on Thursday lodged papers with the Film and Publications Board Appeal Tribunal in an attempt to overturn the board's decision in May to classify Brett Murray's The Spear painting with a 16N rating.

  • Read the full heads of argument here

The gallery is arguing that the board had no jurisdiction to classify the actual portrait "which had been defaced and subsequently removed from public exhibition before the classification decision was made" or the online publication of the electronic image on the gallery's website "because there had been no complaint to it in this regard".

The papers also assert that the board's jurisdiction did not extend to the image published on the City Press website as it was subject to the "bona fide newspaper exception" of the Film and Publication Act. The challenge noted that the board failed to "afford a hearing in some form to the publishers of the image", despite the matter being "squarely raised".

The gallery submitted that aside from itself and the City Press, no other persons or organisations which had published the image had been invited to make submissions.

The reasoning of the board's classification committee in reaching its decision was also questioned by the gallery, noting that it "erred in repeatedly placing reliance on the concerns of 'sensitive adults', when it had no jurisdiction to do so", and that it rested its decision "largely on questions of the right to dignity", which were not dealt with in the relevant sections of Film and Publication Act.


The very nature of the 16N classification was also attacked in the papers as was the board’s apparent myopia around artistic expression and free speech, which "was deserving of special latitude and protection".

The matter was set down for hearing on September 17.

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Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket.

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