Vandalism of Nude Art at Brooks Art Gallery!

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BrooksBrokenStatue76small.jpg
In the November issue of Memphis magazine, we tell the dramatic story of the strange events that took place at the Memphis Academy of Arts from 1969 to 1971, when certain people here objected rather strongly to the school's use of nudes, and an exhibition of nude photography. The result was death threats, car bombs, even a kidnapping. It's on newsstands now. Buy a copy. I mean it.

But the art academy (now known as Memphis College of Art) wasn't the only victim of this outrageous behavior. You know the graceful statue of the three female swimmers that stands as the centerpiece of the garden by the west entrance to Memphis Brooks Museum of Art? (The actual location is called the North Holly Court.) Lovely, isn't it?

Well, sometime during the evening of August 9, 1976, somebody must have thought otherwise, because they hacked the thing to pieces.

Here's the photo of the ruined sculpture that ran in the Memphis Press-Scimitar. Quite a mess. The newspaper reported, "The statue has a history of controversy. When it was first put in place, critics objected so strongly to the nude figures that the sculptor, Frances Mallory Morgan, was required to put a suggestion of bathing suits on the figures."

Apparently that was not enough. Luckily, the artist was able to repair the damage, and it's hard to tell the piece ever looked like this.

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