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Nudes From Rodin Exhibit Censored

October 27, 1997 GMT

PROVO, Utah (AP) _ Mormon Church-owned Brigham Young University has pulled four nudes from an exhibit of works by renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin, including his famous ``The Kiss.″

``We have felt that the nature of those works are such that the viewer will be concentrating on them in a way that is not good for us,″ said Campbell Gray, director of the BYU Museum of Art.

The decision surprised the organizers of the traveling exhibit titled ``The Hands of Rodin, A Tribute to B. Gerald Cantor.″ Cantor, who died last year, was a leading collector of the works of the 19th century artist perhaps best known for his sculpture ``The Thinker.″

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``We haven’t had any other institutions that felt the need to not exhibit any pieces by Rodin,″ said Rachael Blackburn, curator of exhibits of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. But the foundation accepts ``what they feel they need to do,″ she said.

Gray said museum and university officials discussed the issue for two months before deciding that the four works would be censored.

Rodin’s sculpture ``The Kiss″ shows a man and woman, both nude, in an embrace. While considered one of Rodin’s most powerful, and popular, works, Gray believes it would disrupt the exhibit and offend some viewers.

Other pieces pulled from the exhibit during its stay through January at BYU are ``Saint John The Baptist Preaching,″ ``The Prodigal Son″ and a ``Monument to Balzac.″

Gray said the decision was complex and reflects not only the school’s interpretation of the moral climate of the surrounding community, but also the religious views of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders, who direct the university.

Three years ago, the school was the brunt of criticism for its decision to cut portions of the movie ``Schindler’s List″ showing nudity and violence when it showed on campus. The award-winning film depicted a Nazi industrialist’s efforts to save Jews from the death camps.

Rodin, who died in 1917, was one of the most influential sculptors of the 19th century, creating works of stunning realism and profound drama. The sculpture of John the Baptist that was pulled shows the prophet nude in midstride and is considered a depiction of his mortality.

``Everyone knows the prophet is mortal,″ Gray said. ``But this conception of prophet is made less than what we would regard as reverent or honorable. It doesn’t show the prophet side of the man at all.″