”Piss Christ’, a controversial photograph by American artist Andres Serrano has reportedly been destroyed by hammer and pickaxe-wielding Catholic extremists at an exhibition in the south of France. The work, which was one of two images attacked, depicts a crucifix suspended in the artist’s urine and has been on display at Avignon’s Collection Lambert art gallery since December 2010. It has recently been the focus of repeated protests by militant Catholic groups, including a protest of between 800-1500 yesterday. The other damaged work is reportedly from the artist’s Churches series and is composed of a photograph taken in a Parisian church.
Serrano’s work has consistently been the focus of controversy; in 1997 the same picture was vandalised during an Australian show at the National Gallery of Victoria.
France Culture journalist Frédéric Martelbroke the story via Twitter. Eric Mezil, director of the Yvon Lambert collection, revealed on Martel’s France Culture radio show Masse Critique that four youths, reportedly sporting tattoos and wearing sunglasses, launched the attack earlier today (Sunday) being fleeing the gallery unapprehended. The works are, accordng to Mezil, damaged beyond repair, with Piss Christ sustaining a hole of four to five centimetres in diameter.
Protests against the picture have taken place in Avignon over the past two weekends with Catholic group Civitas, which aims to ‘rechristianise’ secular France taking a leading role in mobilising support. The group was also recently responsible for presenting a petition demanding the artwork’s withdrawl from the show, entitled, ‘Je crois aux miracles’ (I believe in miracles). The gallery’s partners include luxury goods brand LMVH.