Thorpe’s manager, David Flaskas, said no offence had been taken and the swimmer was more annoyed at the coverage the piece had generated than at the work itself.

Ian’s really relaxed about it, I’m really relaxed about it, Flaskas said.

The story broke on the front page of a recent Sunday Herald Sun under the headline Thorpe Anger At Gay Art Slur.

Flaskas said he understood gay anger over the media coverage.

He would be very upset by that headline -“ as am I, Flaskas said. We’re offended by that headline.

I can understand why the gay community would be offended. I can’t apologise because I didn’t create it, but I feel sorry about it.

Natalie Starr and Alexandra Sanderson’s collage, entitled Not Only But Also, features Thorpe with an arrow pointing at him and the word GAY. Other celebrities are also lampooned, including Nicole Kidman.

Starr has said that the piece was a comment on speculation about Thorpe’s sexuality, rather than his sexuality itself.

On display at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Ian Potter Centre, the piece initially prompted reports that Thorpe’s management had threatened legal action.

Flaskas told the Melbourne Star no such threat had been made, and suggestions Thorpe was angry about the work were nonsense. Flaskas said he had spoken to the gallery’s curator, who had told him the artists were upset at the controversy and had not intended offence.

There’s no offence taken, he said.

Flaskas said Thorpe had laughed when told about the art work on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokesperson David McCarthy said the art work sensationalised sexuality for the artists’ own ends.

I’m annoyed by it, because making sexuality controversial shows in my opinion that the artists lack talent, McCarthy said. They’re making fun out of sexuality, with someone who’s said he’s not gay.

But McCarthy said the response to the piece disturbed him. I would have thought we could be a bit more mature -“ but then again maybe our expectations of [certain sections of the media] are a bit high.

It shows that some work still needs to be done, that mainstream media still regards homosexuality as a bit of an oddity.

For us, yes, it’s an interesting story, but the message it sends to other people is that our sexuality should only be used for innuendo and for having a go at someone, rather than actually respecting diversity.

After years of refusing to comment on rumours about his sexuality, Thorpe finally came out as straight in 2002.

Natalie Starr told reporters last week the art was meant to be satirical.

Andy Murdoch is features editor with Melbourne’s MX newspaper.

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