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Nude dwarfs in sexual poses have been banned from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

Otago Polytechnic School of Art head of sculpture Michele Beevors says the six dwarf figures - some in graphically sexual positions - have been censored from her "Debbie Does Disney" exhibition, which opens in the gallery today.

"I've never been censored before. It's just bizarre," she said yesterday.

"I've stood up at art school in the past against censorship of students' works. They told me the Rita Angus curator didn't like the dwarfs ... He thought too many little old ladies going to the Rita Angus exhibition would be offended."

The Te Papa-curated Rita Angus "Life and Vision" exhibition includes several nude self-portraits of the artist.

"I think they're just afraid, because it's a Te Papa exhibition," Beevors said. "There have been tons of nudes throughout history, from Michelangelo's David to the Venus de Milo.

"Debbie Does Disney" features more than a dozen fibreglass fantasia figures which have been installed on the first floor of the gallery.

"They're supposed to be fun. They're not offensive at all. They're funny. I had some of them on the flatbed of my truck when I went into the supermarket the other day and when I got back to the truck there was a gaggle of people standing around laughing their heads off."

The exhibition was designed to "highlight the hypocrisy which goes with the banalisation of everything", Beevors said. However, Dunedin Public Art Gallery curator of contemporary art Aaron Kreisler dismissed Beevors' claims when contacted yesterday.

"It was always a curated show and when we're asked to curate things we've got to make a judgment call on what we consider are the strongest works," he said. "We never even had a discussion with Te Papa about her show."

Te Papa communications manager Jane Keig said the museum had been unaware of Beevors' exhibition.

Beevors said she would protest against the decision outside the gallery today.

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES