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Is Nude Photo of 10-Year-Old Brooke Shields Art or Child Porn?

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London's famed Tate Modern museum has temporarily pulled a controversial nude photo of actress/model Brooke Shields that was taken when she was just 10 years old (the photo at left is a movie still from Pretty Baby when Shields was 12). The decision followed a visit by a police unit that deals with obscene publications.

The photo is part of an exhibit called "Spiritual America" that features many sexually explicit images. The museum was obviously concerned about the Shields photo from the start, considering the image was placed in its own separate room behind a closed door. A sign on the door warned people about the content on the other side.

While well intentioned, one child activist says that precaution is actually an invitation for trouble. "Putting a sign on the door like that means every pedophile in the land will head straight to that room," Michele Elliott, founder of children's charity Kidscape, told the Daily Mail.

The photo in question shows Shields standing naked in a bathtub. It was taken in 1975 by photographer Gary Gross, reportedly with her mother's consent, according to the Mail. But when Gross tried to republish the photos in the 1980s, Shields and her mother launched a legal fight to stop him. But Gross won the case.

Artist Richard Prince included the photo in his exhibit because he wanted people to respond to the "eeriness" of the image, according to Jack Bankowsky, the exhibit's co-curator.

A spokesman for the Tate says officials thought long and hard before including the photo. "As with any artwork that contains challenging imagery, Tate has sought legal advice and evaluated the situation. Tate has taken measures to inform visitors of the nature of the work, providing information outlining the intentions of the artist."

The Tate is working with London police to figure out what to do next.

Brooke Shields is no stranger to controversy. When 12, her appearance in Pretty Baby elicited claims of sexual exploitation. A few years later she made the infamous "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins" Calvin Klein jeans television ad that many critics thought was innapropriate.

So what do you think about this latest controversy. Is a photo like this highbrow, complicated art or is it a case of child pornography?

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