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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 20:57 GMT
Artists remove Austria sex poster
Carlos Aires' poster

Controversial images of Queen Elizabeth II, George W Bush and Jacques Chirac apparently having sex have been removed from billboards in Austria.

The posters, shown as part of a public arts project ahead of Austria's EU presidency, had provoked wide outcry.

The artists said they were withdrawing their work so as not to detract from that of others involved in the project.

Condemning what they described as "public censorship", the artists said the posters had been misunderstood.

No-one had bothered "to engage with the artistic message" of the billboards, they added.

The decision followed a meeting of the project organisers and curators on Thursday afternoon.

Pornography is in the eye of the beholder
Artist Carlos Aires

The posters were part of a series of 150 different images being flashed to motorists via billboards across Vienna.

Artists from across the EU had contributed varied works to the display, part of the 25Peaces art project which has received around 1m euros (680,000) from the Austrian government.

The image by Spanish artist Carlos Aires, showing the naked threesome wearing rubber masks of the Queen and two presidents, caused the most controversy.

But denying his works were meant to offend, Aires told Austria's APA news agency: "Pornography is in the eye of the beholder.

"I suddenly had this image of three decision makers who are having an orgy while everything around them collapses."

'Distorted image'

Another image, of a woman lying naked on a bed except for a pair of knickers bearing the EU flag, was also condemned as pornographic.

Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel was not able to ban the posters but had appealed to the independent artists' group running the project to withdraw some of them.

In a statement, 25Peaces said: "We regret this development that totally distorted the image of the entire project."

Opposition leaders and some of Austria's media complained the images demeaned women and had embarrassed their country as it prepares to take over the rotating EU presidency on 1 January.

Other schemes in the 25Peaces project have included planting a vegetable garden on Heldenplatz - the square where Adolf Hitler announced Germany's annexation of Austria.

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