Police monitor vagina exhibition

Melanie Sano

Complaints were made to the City of Sydney council regarding a recent exhibition in celebration of the vagina.
Police monitor vagina exhibition

Complaints were made to the City of Sydney council regarding a recent exhibition in celebration of the vagina.


101 Vagina was an exhibition held at 107 Projects Gallery in Redfern from 27-30 June 2013. The exhibition displayed black and white front-on standing pose photos of women’s vaginas and related stories. The content was taken from Philip Werner’s 101 Vagina coffee-table book.

According to Werner, police visited the gallery on four separate occasions to monitor the exhibition and make censorship suggestions.

‘The first time they came they apparently weren’t acting on a complaint; I don’t know why they came, maybe just to check it out. And they had a look around, realised that it wasn’t porn, realised that nothing was displayed in the windows, and left again. The second time they came, apparently they responded to a complaint that the artwork could be seen through the windows and they suggested, though not demanded … that the windows be covered.’

Two subsequent visits were made to suggest a glass door also be covered. The gallery agreed to all requests.

The moral outrage caused by the exhibition was not the organiser’s intent. According to Werner the project was about, ‘… breaking down the taboo around vaginas and around genitalia and sexuality in general, and creating some kind of a counterpoint to the media which is very skewed towards certain body types. … We’re all so different. What that means is that we’re also all normal.’

In reference to the complaints against 101 Vagina, Werner believes they were from people who had not bothered to engage with the project. ‘If they’d come in and actually read the stories and actually understood what it was about even they might have had a different take on it.’

A further complaint extended to the posters advertising the event. The posters prominently displayed the word vagina and, despite containing no nudity, were deemed offensive.

‘Complaints like this show that we still have a long way to go in the removing of this taboo and in feeling comfortable with our bodies and our sexuality,’ said Werner. ‘We were all conceived and born through the vagina, vaginas are sacred, not obscene!’

A City of Sydney spokeswoman revealed that the council received two complaints opposing the exhibition but also stated that the council ‘… has no authority over the 107 Projects’ creative program.’ It is unknown how many complaints were made to the police.

About the author

Melanie Sano is an ArtsHub writer.