Painting of Last Supper orgy causes controversy; Send an email in support of courageous exhibition

0 Posted by - April 14, 2008 - Blog, Installations, Policy, Visual art
Sculpture, Alfred Hrdlicka

Sculpture, Alfred Hrdlicka

Who says cartoons are the only way to rile a religious flock?

Artist Alfred Hrdlicka, one of Austria’s most celebrated painters, has caused a spasm of outrage among Christians with a painting in a recent exhibition. The painting in question is “Leonardo’s Last Supper, restored by Pier Paolo Pasolini” which, in the artist’s words, depicts the event as “a homosexual orgy”. Most surprising is the location of the exhibition — the museum of Vienna’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. The Catholic Church sponsored the show.

And this to me is the most remarkable part of the story: that the museum allowed the painting to be included in the show in the first place. It was only after numerous angry complaints by patrons that the painting was removed. Heroically (to my mind), the museum director Berhard Boehler and exhibition curator Martina Judt have defended the art work stating that the museum never intended to offend anyone and that art should be allowed to provoke debate.

Hrdlick’a controversial painting depicts the Apostles sprawling over the table and masturbating each other. In the museum where the painting has been removed, there is now a large blank black wall. But removal of the painting has not satisfied some Christians who have taken taken their howls of protest into the blogosphere. Conservative Christians around the world – in particular, in fundamentalist circles in the United States – have picked up the story and are demanding apologies.

Leonardo’s Last Supper is not the only provocative image in the show…

Leonardo’s Last Supper is not the only provocative image in the retrospective exhibition of the artist’s 80 year career. Another depicts a soldier beating Jesus while holding his genitals. And one of his sculptures depicts Christ on the Cross without a face or a loincloth. Hrdlicka has praised the museum’s curator and director for their courage.

And we could too: Send an email to the Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Chrtistopher Schonborn’s website expressing support for the museum and the exhibition. Let them know there is an international community that supports challenging artwork and that respects the decision of the museum to hold an exhibition that invites dialogue around controversial issues of public concern.

And if your feeling energetic, send off another email or two to the Vienna English Speaking Catholic Community … VESCC@aon.at or office@vescc.org

And if you’re feeling especially energetic, send the Pope an email, if you can find an email address. And if you do, let us know and we’ll post it.

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