“Prudish” Woolworths nixes Spencer Tunick nudes

A petition has been launched after the supermarket giant refused the use of its Prahran store carpark for the hero shot in Spencer Tunick’s Return of the Nude.

by Angus McPherson on June 7, 2018

Update: Woolworths has agreed to allow the photo shoot to take place on Monday, July 9. The shoot will be completed in one hour, with participants encouraged to take public transport to the event. “As we’ve said in the past, we’re very supportive of the Provocaré​  Festival of the Arts and the Chapel Street community in which we operate,” a spokesperson for Woolworths said. “In further discussions with the festival organisers they indicated a willingness to be flexible with dates and times to ensure the shoot could happen without inconveniencing our customers during busy weekend trading. As a result, we’re now able to accommodate the request to temporarily clear the rooftop for Spencer Tunick’s group shot on a Monday morning during a traditionally slow trading period. It’s a good outcome that will allow Spencer Tunick to profile the Chapel Street precinct on the world stage without compromising the ability of our customers to access the store, in an easy and convenient manner.” 

A petition has been launched by the Chapel Street Precinct Association after supermarket giant Woolworths refused the use of its carpark for the hero shot in visiting artist Spencer Tunick’s Return of the Nude, the headline act of the PROVOCARÉ Festival. Tunick’s work will see thousands of nude participants photographed at locations around Melbourne’s Chapel Street. According to the CSPA’s press release, Tunick selected the Woolworths rooftop carpark as the location for his main set-up. Woolworths, however, has declined permission for the event to take place there.

Spencer Tunick, Return of the NudeSpencer Tunick’s 2001 photo shoot in Melbourne. Photo © Spencer Tunick

“We recently upgraded the rooftop car park at our Prahran store to make it more accessible and comfortable and its primary purpose is so our customers have convenient access to available car parking close to our store,” a Woolworths spokesperson said in a statement. “The request for the photo was for the weekend, which is the busiest time of the week for shopping in our stores, and as such we must ensure customers have convenient access to our store when we are open.”

“Woolworths is saying no because of ‘potential lost revenue’,” said John Lotton, Executive Chairman of the CSPA. “This decision is ludicrous because Spencer’s installation will be finished by 9am and the evidence we have already provided proves this.”

While the store opens at 6am, Lotton suggested that the number of customers affected would be negligible. “We undertook a detailed reconnaissance before approaching Woolworths to ensure Spencer’s installation would not cause a detrimental impact to trading in the store. We have photographic proof that only four cars used the car park at this time on a Saturday – it doesn’t get busy until much later.”

According to the CSPA, more than 10,000 people have registered to take part in the event. “This diverse, largely adult local community has fully embraced this form of art,” Lotton said. “This is an over 18’s only art commission and no children will be impacted due to the isolated and secured location of the installation. We strongly believe that to survive in this retail environment all brands need to be part of the community, and their values should reflect that of the locals who live here.”

“Our Chairman tried to have this matter elevated to a higher level at Woolworths, but the property department refused to do so. Hence why we are now looking to the public for their response,” said CSPA Head of Business, Chrissie Maus. “The community will be very disappointed with the Woolworths decision – especially considering Spencer Tunick’s wide support,” Maus said. “We are concerned that this prudish ruling could tip the scales and be the reason why some of our local shoppers may now choose to shop at Coles instead.”

Spencer Tunick, Sydney Opera House, Return of the Nude5,000 people stripped for Spencer Tunick’s 2010 photo at the Sydney Opera House. Photo © Spencer Tunick

Tunick has welcomed the petition to have Woolworth’s decision overturned. “My work has long brought out the common themes of community, individual identity, and the challenges of making the arts an inclusive experience rather than an exclusive experience,” he said in a statement. “Working on the Woolworths Prahran rooftop car park provides an amazing opportunity to let the citizens of Melbourne become the artist themselves – to remind the citizens of Melbourne that Woolworths has a symbiotic relationship with them. Ultimately, the final images will document an extraordinary moment in the timeline of Prahran.”

“I would also like to note that, as a site-specific artist, I have a long record of working in some of the most iconic and historic locations in the world,” Tunick said. “I have had the opportunity to work in Grand Central Station in NYC, the Opera House in Brugge Belgium, and the Four Seasons Restaurant in NYC. I have even worked in UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. I believe that this latest spot [in Melbourne] has something uniquely special about it…. It’s otherworldly.”

Spencer Tunick’s Return of the Nude will take place in Melbourne July 7 – 10 as part of the PROVOCARÉ Festival. Register to take part here.


Explore our Subscription Options

Subscribe, renew or give Limelight as a gift and you could win a night out in Melbourne with the Australian World Orchestra.

Latest Issue

Read the June 2019 issue online

This issue includes features on Lang Lang, Whiteley: The Opera, Gondwana Choirs, Notre Dame, Jayson Gillham, Sweeney Todd, and much more.


View current competitions

Enter to win tickets to the latest productions around Australia and films on the big screen.

Back Issues

Explore the limelight archive

Missed an issue of Limelight? Subscribe to gain access to our digital archive of back issues.

Featured Festival

CIMF 2019

Read our complete coverage of the Canberra International Music Festival, May 2 – 12.

New York

Read our insider guide

From the glamour of the Met and the buzz of Broadway to classical music hideaways and, yes, even some free stuff, Limelight’s insider guide aims to be everything an adventurous cultural tourist needs.

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Sign Up To Our Newsletter