London, May 29 : Aussie actress Cate Blanchett has publicly defended an artist and his portraits of nude children, which have caused a censorship row in Australia.
The person responsible for the pictures is photographer Bill Henson and police have shut down his exhibition, seized the images and are even considering charging him.
The show, which features naked 13-year-old kids, was condemned by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as being "revolting".
But Blanchett and 42 other leading arts figures have said in an open letter, that treating the art work in such a negative way will only damage Australia's cultural reputation.
"The potential prosecution of one of our most respected artists is no way to build a creative Australia and does untold damage to our cultural reputation," BBC quoted them as saying in the letter, which was addressed to Australia's environment minister and the premier of New South Wales state.
"We should remember that an important index of social freedom, in earlier times or in repressive regimes elsewhere in the world, is how artists and art are treated by the state.
"We wish to make absolutely clear that none of us endorses, in any way, the abuse of children," they said.
"Henson's work has nothing to do with child pornography and, according to the judgment of some of the most respected curators and critics in the world, it is certainly art," they added.
The exhibition was supposed to take place at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, but the police shut it down even before it could open.
The show was supposed to open last week but was stopped when people complained about photographs of naked 12 and 13-year-old boys and girls being displayed.
The police seized 20 photographs from the gallery, and most of them were of a 13-year-old girl.
According to the police they are planning on interviewing the subjects of the photos and their parents and are still investigating whether the photographs violate obscenity laws.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rudd has stood by his criticism about the pictures and has definitely put them down.
"I gave my reaction, I stand by that reaction and I don't apologise for it and I won't be changing it," Rudd said.
"I am passionate about children having innocence in their childhood," he added.
The photographs have also been labelled as child pornography by the Australian child advocacy group Bravehearts, who have further dubbed it as exploitation and called for Henson and the gallery to be prosecuted.