updated 6/6/2008 10:33:42 AM ET 2008-06-06T14:33:42

Photographs of nude teenagers that prompted police to close a gallery exhibit in Australia's biggest city and launch an obscenity investigation were cleared Friday as non-pornographic, and police dropped their case against the artist.

Police announced that no charges would be laid in connection to the photographs by leading Australian photographer Bill Henson.

The decision appeared to clear the way for the reopening of the Henson exhibit at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. Police shut down the exhibit hours before it was to open May 22 and confiscated dozens of photographs of naked adolescent boys and girls to investigate whether they violated obscenity laws.

'Profoundly humbling'
Hensen and the gallery released a statement welcoming the police decision.

"It has been profoundly humbling to witness the depth of support for my work in these past weeks," Henson said. "It is reassuring to see existing laws, having been rigorously tested, still provide a framework in which debate and expression of ideas can occur."

The statement did not say whether the exhibit would be reopened.

Henson, 52, is a renowned artist whose work is displayed in galleries around the world. His work, known for its use of light and dark shading, encompasses a wide range of subjects — landscapes, cloudscapes, suburban and rural life, young people and old people.

A spokeswoman for Australia's Classification Board, speaking on condition of anonymity under board policy, said six Henson photos had been referred to them. The board gave five of them a G rating, and one a PG.

13-year-old girl
The PG photo — of a 13-year-old girl — was used on the cover of the invitation to the exhibit. It was believed to have caused the initial complaints that led to the police shutdown of the exhibit and investigation into possible obscenity charges against Henson.

The image "creates a viewing impact that is mild and justified by context ... and is not sexualized to any degree," the board found.

Following the ruling, the New South Wales police said their investigation had concluded. In a statement the police said they had been advised by the Director of Public Prosecutions that there was "no reasonable prospect of a successful conviction."

"Matters involving the law and art are notoriously difficult and that is why police sought this advice," the statement said, adding that the portraits would be returned to the gallery.

The police investigation set off a debate over censorship versus art, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calling the photos "revolting." He was countered by actress Cate Blanchett and other artists, who argued that creativity was being stifled.

Rudd said Friday that he stood by his views of the work but that the matter was for independent bodies to decide.

"I ... said what my views are as a parent, I don't budge from that," Rudd told Nine Network television. "But I'm not about to go around and start dictating to the legal authorities what they should or should not do."

At least three other art galleries in Australia were contacted by police about their Henson collections, and some took the pieces down from the walls while the case was under investigation.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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