According to the paper, the 1983 image was taken by artist Richard Prince (a recent Louis Vuitton collaborator) and shows a prepubescent Shields naked from the knees up, slicked in oil and wearing grown-up makeup.
The work is actually a Prince photo of the original image taken by Gary Gross in 1975. At the time, he hired Shields to model for him and reportedly took the picture with her mother's consent. In the '80s, however, Shields and her mother launched a case to stop Gross from republishing the picture. He ended up winning the legal battle.
The Tate is justifying the image (called "Spiritual America") as "an important work," according the Daily Mail, and officials there say the museum sought legal advice before including the picture within an exhibit titled Pop Life: Art In A Material World, which will also feature images of graphic sex acts and covers of porn magazines.
As for Prince, he exhibited the image at New York City's Guggenheim museum during an exhibit in 2007, and says the picture is "an extremely complicated photo of a naked girl who looks like a boy made up to look like a woman."
But critics tell the paper it's not art of any sort, but kiddie porn, plain and simple, and are calling for it to be taken out of the exhibit. The Tate insists it will try to warn viewers of the graphic nature of the photograph by placing a notice that warns of the "challenging" image over the entrance to the gallery in which the picture is shown.
Of course, Shields has a sordid history of being sexualized as a child. There was her portrayal of a 12-year-old prostitute in 1978's "Pretty Baby," the nude scenes of a 14-year-old Shields in "The Blue Lagoon," and the notorious "What comes between me and my Calvins?" Calvin Klein ads a year later.
Also, no stranger to drama is the Tate, which has displayed sexually explicit sculptures by the likes of Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami in the past, and thinks it's all about creating a dialogue.
What are your thoughts? Is the Shields image art or kiddie porn? Leave a comment below.