The work is a photograph of a 1976 image of a 10-year-old Brooke Shields posing naked in a bathtub and has periodically been the subject of controversy. Its original photographer, Garry Gross, who shot the work for Playboy publication Sugar ‘n’ Spice, told the Telegraph he was “disappointed but not surprised” that officials had halted its display. “She was supposed to look like a sexy woman,” he said, while maintaining that the work is not pornographic. “She's just sitting in the bathtub,” he said.
An American judge ruled in 1983 that the work was "not sexually suggestive, provocative or pornographic,” though it has sometimes generated legal attention. Gross said the French government had once confiscated a copy of his photograph. At a 2007 Prince retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the work was shown without any legal trouble.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police told the Guardian that officers had decided to visit the museum after reading about the work in the newspaper, noting that the police “are keen to work with gallery management to ensure that they do not inadvertently break the law or cause any offense to their visitors.” The Tate Modern has said it consulted with lawyers prior to the exhibition and had planned to show the work in a separate room with a warning outside its doors. The museum hasn't said how it plans to proceed after the visit from authorities.
The Prince photograph is hardly the only risqué piece in “Pop Life.” Also present is a work from Jeff Koonss “Made in Heaven” series, which shows the artist in bed with former wife and retired porn star La Cicciolina, though the work has yet to stir up any controversy. In an interview with Bloomberg, Koons explained the work. “The core of 'Made in Heaven' is really to, I believe, connect people to themselves,” he said. “Self-acceptance. And then, really to go outside and help the continuation of life.”