A group of Christian activists armed with hammers and screwdrivers destroyed two artworks which were part of an exhibition of degenerate art by Andres Serrano displayed in the southern French city of Avignon over the weekend. One of the exhibits depicted a crucifix immersed in urine. A photo of some of the damage is available HERE.
Highlighting the exhibition was a photograph, taken by Serrano in 1987, which shows a plastic crucifix fully immersed in a glass of the artist's urine. It is referred to by the unsavory and unappetizing name of "Piss Christ". The Christ figure appears to glow in the image, which caused a scandal when it was first exhibited in 1989 and which has since toured the world. Christians and nationalists have previously staged direct action against such exhibits, most notably in Lund, Sweden in October 2007, and again in Alingsås, Sweden in January 2008.
The exhibit in Avignon was first criticized by Civitas, a lobby group which says it wants to restore Christian influence in France. They called the piece "sacrilege vis-a-vis God and Catholics" and launched a petition for it to be removed from the exhibition at the residence housing the Yvon Lambert collection. Then on Saturday April 16th, a group of around 500 people rallied outside the building against the exhibit. Finally, on Sunday, four youths wearing sunglasses entered the building and surrounded two security guards stationed in front of the artwork, while others began hacking at it and another of Serrano's photographs, showing a nun meditating. It appears the youths successfully escaped thereafter.
Eric Mezil, the director of the Lambert collection, said he would leave the shattered artworks hanging so that the public could, in his words, "appreciate the barbarity committed by extremists". Mezil also tried to point the finger at French President Nicholas Sarkozy, saying that Sarkozy's speech in March lauding the Christian heritage of France at Puy-en-Velay, where the first Crusades were preached, may have created a climate of tension. The exhibit began on December 12th and is scheduled to continue until May 8th. Another group of Christian activists from the General Alliance Against Racism and for the Respect of the French and Christian Identity is taking the Collection Lambert to court on Wednesday April 20th to try to have the crucifix photograph removed from the exhibit, claiming it "insults and injures Christians at the heart of their faith."
Avignon has a unique place in Christian history. During the period 1309-1378, seven Roman Catholic popes resided in Avignon as a result of a prolonged dispute between the Papacy and the French crown. Avignon was one of the Pontifical States which included the Vatican and a small enclave to the east. They remained part of the Pontifical States up to the French Revolution, during which they became part of France in 1791. The Vatican is the only Pontifical State today. So one can immediately understand why the display of degenerate art in Avignon is considered particularly sacrilegious.
Wikipedia tells us more not only about Andres Serrano, but about his infamous "Piss Christ" creation. Here's an excerpt, illustrating his obsession and preoccupation with bodily fluids:
Many of Serrano's pictures involve bodily fluids in some way—depicting, for example, blood (sometimes menstrual blood), semen (for example, "Blood and Semen II" (1990)) or mother's milk. Within this series are a number of works in which objects are submerged in bodily fluids. Most famous of these is "Piss Christ" (1987), a photograph of a plastic crucifix behind a glass of his own urine. This caused great controversy when first exhibited. Serrano, alongside other artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, became a figure whom some attacked for producing offensive art while others defended him in the name of artistic freedom (see the American "culture wars" of the 1990s).
The four youths are true Christian soldiers who step up and aggressively defend the faith. They don't waste time trying to sell people hoary theories about how Eve had sex with Satan in the Garden of Eden to create the Jews, or substitute Jewish dietary laws and deity names for Christian doctrine.