US artist hits back after Rio museum censors show

US photographer Nan Goldin addresses a press conference in Berlin in 2009. Goldin on Thursday criticized the cancelation of her Brazil show, saying the Rio museum should focus not on censorship but on the huge problem of Brazilian street children

US photographer Nan Goldin accused a Rio museum of pointless censorship on Thursday after it barred her exhibition containing images of sexual situations, drug use, and children. "It's ironic that this happens in Brazil, a country that has always seemed open, a place where I thought people were free, without the fear that showing one's body would result in Puritan social restrictions," Goldin told O Globo daily in an interview from Germany where she is on assignment. The Oi Futuro Flamengo museum scrapped the show, set for January, after deciding some of the pictures were inappropriate. "The mission of Oi Futuro is to promote education and the images are not in line with our cultural center which dozens of schoolchildren visit every day," it said in a statement. Several Brazilian artists have come out in support of Goldin and Rio's Museum of Modern Art (MAM-Rio) has agreed to host the exhibition instead from February 11 to April 8. Among pictures found to be objectionable are some in the "Ballad of Sexual Dependency" (1981-1996), a Goldin slideshow chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between friends and lovers collectively described by Goldin as her "tribe." The photographer said any controversy over her photos pales in comparison to the "crisis" Brazil faces with its huge population of at-risk youths. "Many of these children are in the streets, living difficult and dangerous lives, even facing death threats from police. These are much, much more serious problems than the issue of the work I do," she said. Oi Futuro last year selected the Goldin exhibition and sponsored it with $159,000, but suddenly reversed course last week and canceled the upcoming show. Goldin is known for documenting her surrogate family of friends as they engage in intimate, uninhibited, or illicit activities, and key themes include drugs, violence, sex and the fear of death. By the early 1990s most of Goldin's models and friends had died, ravaged by AIDS and drugs.