A nude photo of Carla Bruni, the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was sold at auction in New York last Thursday for 91,000 euros. The photographer had persuaded the seller, German collector Gert Elfering, to donate the money from the sale to charity. Elfering chose the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital Association in Cambodia. The head of the hospital, Swiss pediatrician and musician Beat Richner refused the money.
This article from Courier Mail summarizes his position (there is a discrepancy over whether the amount of 91,000 is in euros or dollars):
Swiss paediatrician Beat Richner, head of a children’s medical care group, said he had turned down an offer of $US91,000 raised at a New York auction last week of the 1993 picture of Italian ex-model Carla Bruni, now married to President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“My decision was taken out of respect for our patients and their mothers,” he said in an interview with Le Matin Dimanche.
“Accepting money obtained from exploitation of the female body would be perceived as an insult.”
In Cambodia “use of nudity is not understood in the way it is in the West”.
He did not wish his institution, the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital Association, “to be involved in the media exploitation of Madame Bruni”.
“The idea behind this gift was to get publicity for the auction and the photographer,” Dr Richner was also quoted as saying. “It was a way of using us.”
In addition to the above remarks, Le Salon Beige, whose readers praise the integrity of Dr. Richner, quotes him as saying:
“My refusal is not a criticism of this photo or of its model. [...] We are not in Hollywood. My decision was made out of respect for our patients and their mothers. They feel as secure in our hospitals as in a pagoda. Accepting money that comes from the exploitation of the female body would be perceived as an insult to their sensitivity and their poverty. At the same time, for Cambodians and their government, Madame Bruni is now seen as the First Lady of France. Our reputation would be stained by what they would perceive as disrespect should we accept money of this nature.”
French readers can read a long interview with the doctor at Le Matin.