Controversial Photograph Destroyed By Catholic Protesters In France

Posted by David Ozanich — 18 Apr 2011

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The controversial photograph "Piss Christ" by Andres Serrano, which shows a small crucifix submerged in a jar of the artist's urine, has been (pardon the pun) pissing people off since 1987 when US Senator Jesse Helms first denounced it as sacrilegious. Over the weekend, it was destroyed by Christian protesters while being displayed in a French gallery.

It had been the subject of weeks of protests from Catholic groups in France which led to the photograph being placed behind plexiglass. Two guards were posted to protect the work but apparently that wasn't enough. The Guardian reports:

Just after 11am on Sunday, four people in sunglasses entered the gallery where the exhibition was being held. One took a hammer from his sock and threatened security staff. A guard restrained one man but the remaining members of the group managed to smash an acrylic screen and slash the photograph with what police believe was a screwdriver or ice pick. They then destroyed another photograph, of nuns' hands in prayer.


Piss Christ is part of a series by Serrano showing religious objects submerged in fluid such as blood and milk. It was being shown in an exhibition to mark 10 years of the art dealer Yvon Lambert's personal collection in his 18th-century mansion.

Last week the gallery complained of "extremist harassment" by Christians who wanted the image banned. The archbishop of Vaucluse, Jean-Pierre Cattenoz, called the work "odious" and said he wanted "this trash" taken off the gallery walls.

Previously "Piss Christ" has been vandalized both in Australia and a Serrano show in Sweden was "ransacked" by Neo-Nazis in 2007.

The culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand, condemned the vandalism as an attack on the fundamental freedoms of creation and expression. A police complaint has been filed by the gallery and the guards.


The gallery's director, Eric Mézil, says he will keep the exhibition open to the public with the destroyed work on show "so people can see what barbarians can do".

The show, Je crois aux miracles (I Believe in Miracles) is open through May in Avignon, France. More on the story from French News Online and Animal which posted this insightful discussion about the photograph with the sublime Catholic art critic, Sister Wendy:

Via Towleroad.

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