Gallery sues over fines for artwork of partially nude woman

ENGLEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey gallery has filed a federal lawsuit over a city code violation it received for displaying artwork of a partially nude woman in its store window.

The Borghi Fine Art Gallery in Englewood sued last week, saying its constitutional rights were violated when it was issued a violation with fines of $1,250 per day and the threat of up to 90 days in jail over artwork showing a woman's bare buttocks.

City officials and code enforcement officer Walter Deptuch, who is also named in the suit, didn't immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment Tuesday.

Owner Laura Borghi said Deptuch asked her to remove the artwork from painter Tom Dash — an ink jet collage of photos of two women painted over in acrylic paint — from the window of her store in January. When she refused, she says, she was issued a violation.

The code approved in 1992 says nude images have to be kept in interior rooms not visible from public areas. Borghi said that it's not possible for her to create an extra room in her three-story gallery and that she shouldn't have to.

"For me, growing up with art — and I have two children of my own — nudity is a beautiful thing," Borghi said. "It's a work of art. It's an expression. ... We're a serious gallery, and the artwork that was on view was nothing that could be offensive to anybody."

Borghi's attorney, Brian Bernstein, said the U.S. and New Jersey constitutions prevent the city from censoring artwork and he's confident Borghi will win the suit.

"There's nothing new about government efforts to suppress artistic expression, especially if it might be viewed by some as controversial," Bernstein said. "Art that challenges convention makes an attractive target for the government."

The suit was first reported by Courthouse News Service.