Art Gallery Fends off N.J. City’s Threat

     TRENTON, N.J. (CN) — An art gallery has taken Englewood, New Jersey, to court for threatening fines over a painting that shows part of a woman’s bare bottom.
     Laura Borghi and Borghi Fine Art Gallery filed a federal complaint on April 13 against Englewood and its code-enforcement officer Walter Deptuch, who issued it a code complaint in January for the “Display of [a] Nude Painting.”
     “The painting was not anything pornographic or offensive, even to children,” Borghi said in an interview. “You see more on a plumber when he bends down.”
     Borghi’s gallery has showed works by the “offending” artist Tom Dash for years. The gallery specializes in American and European paintings of the past century and a half. Some of those paintings, which are sold at auctions, could be considered erotica, Borghi said — but not one by Dashy.
     It’s not Borghi’s first go-round with the censors. She said a woman came into her shop in late 2015 complaining about another painting, and asked that the Tom Dash painting also be removed from the window.
     Borghi said she declined to removed them. Several months later a city code enforcement officer repeated the request.
     “He asked me nicely and I said no,” Borghi said. “He came back later and said if it wasn’t taken down by 5 p.m. I would get a fine.”
     The Jan. 7 complaint accused her of violating a 1992 ordinance prohibiting visual representation that publicly depicts or describes sexual activity or sexual paraphernalia.
     It also prohibits nude images, which it describes as “the appearance of a human bare buttock, anus, male genitals, female genitals, or aureola of the female breast.”
     Nude images must be kept in interior rooms not visible from public areas, under the ordinance. Violations can be punished by fines as high as $1,250 per day and 90 days in jail.
     The three-floor gallery has large glass windows. Most of the artwork on the first floor can be seen from the street.
     Borghi says the town’s demand, threat and law violate the state and federal constitutions.
     She said it would be financially impossible to build a separate room in her gallery for paintings with any nudity in them.
     “I’ll go out of business,” she said.
     An Englewood spokesman said the city does not comment on pending lawsuits.
     Borghi’s attorney, Brian Bernstein, did not return calls for comment.
     Dash is a contemporary painter in Long Island whose work also has been featured in galleries in Oregon and California.
     The Borghi gallery opened in 2007, and has housed a number of exhibitions of contemporary painters. This year it partnered with Jeremy Frommer to auction a collection of photography from former Penthouse magazine founder Bob Guccione.
     “This is life. You have a penis. I have a vagina, you know?” Borghi said. “What’s going on in our society is a lot worse than what’s going on in my window.”

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