Protesters Destroy Notorious 'Artwork' That Defiled Christ

Tuesday, 19 Apr 2011 01:53 PM

By Martin Gould

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A group of Catholics destroyed a notorious “artwork” that defiled an image of Jesus Christ and had outraged Christians worldwide for more than two decades. The group ruined the obscene image during Palm Sunday weekend protests in France, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports.

The controversy traces back to 1987, when New York-based Andres Serrano submerged a crucifix in his own urine and photographed it, claiming that the work was intended to be a criticism of “the billon-dollar Christ-for-profit industry” and “a condemnation of those who abuse the teachings of Christ for their own ignoble ends.”

Jesse Helms, Serrano, artwork, Christ
The late Republican Sen. Jesse Helms had lambasted the obscene image and labeled the artist "a jerk." (Getty Images Photo)
The work won Serrano a $15,000 prize in a 1989 arts contest whose sponsors included the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). That sparked furious debate on public arts funding in the Senate in which the late Republican Sen. Jesse Helms famously described Serrano as “not an artist . . . a jerk.”

The issue was rekindled last year during debate over President Barack Obama’s proposals for NEA funding.

The photograph has been shown around the world, but on Saturday, 1,000 Christian protesters descended on art dealer Yvon Lambert’s gallery in Avignon, where it was on display.

The following day, Palm Sunday, four young men wearing sunglasses got inside the exhibition. One threatened guards with a hammer while others smashed a plexiglass screen protecting the photograph and slashed it with a sharp object. They also destroyed another Serrano work of a meditating nun.

Gallery director Eric Mézil said he would put the damaged work on display "so people can see what barbarians can do.”

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