Supermarket giant Woolworths has banned internationally-renowned photographer and artist Spencer Tunick from staging his next large-scale nude work on the rooftop of an inner-city Melbourne store.

The New York artist had requested to use the Prahran store's roof, which has sweeping views of Melbourne, for his next photographic installation Return of the Nude as part of the Chapel Street Precinct's Provocare arts festival.

Photographer Spencer Tunick photographed a massive landscape of human bodies in Melbourne in 2007.

Photo: Wayne Taylor

But Woolworths denied the request in late April.

"At Woolworths, we will always put the convenience of our local customers first. 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 spokeswoman said.

"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."


The spokesperson said the company remained supportive of the Provocare Festival of the Arts event.

Tunick's previous Australian works include a photograph in front of Sydney's iconic Opera House in 2010, and a 2001 shot in Melbourne with a crowd of 4,500 people along the banks of the Yarra.

Spencer Tunick's Opera House nude shot.

Photo: Unknown

The Woolworths shoot was planned for July 7 and would have been finished by 9am, according to festival organisers.

But organisers of the event have dubbed Woolworths' decision as "lame and shortsighted."

“Woolworths is saying 'no' because of potential lost revenue,” Chapel Street Precinct executive chairman John Lotton said.

“This decision is ludicrous because Spencers installation will be finished by 9am and the evidence we have already provided proves this."

Thousands had expressed interest in participating in the shoot, which was billed to go ahead "rain or shine".

Chosen participants were to be contacted in the weeks beforehand with instructions about the location and arrival time.

“We undertook a detailed reconnaissance before approaching Woolworths to ensure Spencers installation would not cause a detrimental impact to trading in the store," Mr Lotton said.

"We have photographic proof that only four cars used the car park at this time on a Saturday – it doesnt get busy until much later.”

Mr Lotton said he spent a week with Tunick in January this year, scouting out Melbourne spots for his next large-scale nude work.

"When he [Tunick] saw this carpark, he felt that it was going to be his hero image and this will be the shot that everybody will see worldwide and it will be the one that will be remembered," Mr Lotton said.

He said he hoped "common sense would prevail" and that Woolworths management would reconsider their decision.

The scheduled Tunick shoot was considered a major coup for the retail precinct, which has suffered record vacancy rates in recent months.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren also questioned Woolworths' decision.

"It [the shoot] would be something that goes global and certainty the backdrop would be Melbourne," he told radio station 3AW on Thursday morning.

"I would think that Woollies might reconsider their options and we'll see what happens in the future."

"Chapel Street reminds me of the East Village in New York, Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and San Franciscos Haight-Ashbury but all combined into one juggernaut," he told The Age in May.

Those who took part were expected to receive a limited-edition print.

Photographic artist Spencer Tunick

Photo: Supplied

Tunick has created over 125 similar installations in Barcelona, Brazil, Spain, and across the US, and has been arrested five times over the works.

A petition has been created to reverse the decision by Woolworths and have the Melbourne shoot take place on the rooftop.

Simone Fox-Koob

Simone is a breaking news reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Australian in Melbourne.

Melissa Cunningham

Melissa Cunningham reports breaking news for The Age.

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