John Lennon’s Bag One exhibition is raided by police

John Lennon’s Bag One, an exhibition of lithographs including several containing erotic imagery, had opened on 15 January 1970. Just 24 hours later it was raided by police officers, who confiscated eight of the 14 original artworks on the grounds of indecency.

The lithographs, known collectively as Bag One, had been drawn by Lennon in 1969, and chronicled his wedding ceremony and honeymoon with Yoko Ono, and one of their bed-ins for world peace.

The exhibition took place over a two-week period at the London Arts Gallery at 22 New Bond Street, London W1. The gallery owner was Eugene Schuster.

The Bag One Portfolio was published as a limited edition of 300, and contained 14 artworks. Each lithograph was signed by Lennon. The portfolio went on sale for £550, with individual prints priced at £40 each.

The police raid followed a tip-off from Egham magistrate Nansi Creer. Although eight artworks were removed, 50 sets and 20 individual prints had already been sold.

The issue was referred to the Director of Public Prosecution, who decided not to prosecute Lennon under the Obscene Publications Act 1964, in case it led to censorship of artworks by a great many other artists who depicted nude figures.

Lennon was, instead, prosecuted under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839. This made it an offence to distribute indecent material in a public thoroughfare. A trial ensued, but the case was dismissed after three weeks on 27 April 1970, when a magistrate ruled that the London Arts Gallery was not a thoroughfare.

Last updated: 15 January 2019
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