Homoerotic ‘Last Supper’ Removed, But Protests to Vienna Cathedral Continue

May 18, 2008 10:26 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Vienna's Roman Catholic Cathedral museum withdraws a painting of the Last Supper, but provocative pieces remain.  An Austrian Christian groups urges continued protests.

30-Second Summary

The exhibition, “Religion, Flesh and Power,” honors 80-year-old artist Alfred Hrdlicka, who is “cherished” in Austria as part of its tradition of “outlandish” art, Reuters reported.

Hrdlicka, a communist and atheist, says the picture depicts “a homosexual orgy" of the Apostles, inspired by the lack of women in Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting.

After widespread Catholic outrage, the gallery removed the painting. But the museum retained the rest of the exhibition, including a painting of a soldier beating Christ while holding Jesus’ genitals.

"We think Hrdlicka is entitled to represent people in this carnal, drastic way," said museum director Bernhard Boehler, adding he never intended to offend people.

Vienna’s Archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn removed the Last Supper picture as “an act of respect towards believers.”

"This has nothing to do with censorship, rather it corresponds with the understood ‘reverence for the sacred,’” the Cardinal's spokesman said.

An Austrian Christian group has urged continued protests, stating that the exhibition promotes "relativism in regard to faith and morals."  Noting the recent case in which an Austrian man imprisoned and raped his daughter for 24 years, and a similar case several years ago, it asserts that the root cause of both is "loss of faith and increasing moral decadence of our society."

But Austrian media have compared the episode to a recent incident in which Islamic groups threatened violence after a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban.

Controversy over Christian-themed artwork is nothing new.

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani criticized the Brooklyn Art Museum in 1999 over art depicting the Virgin Mary that incorporated elephant dung. In 1989, the sculpture “Piss Christ,” a submerged crucifix in a glass vat of urine, drew national attention.

“Throughout history, artists have produced works which tested society’s standards of decency,” observes a First Amendment Center Web site analyzing free speech and religion.

Headline Link: ‘Erotic Jesus Sparks Debate in Austria’

Opinion & Analysis: Exhibit seen as ‘desecration’ or ‘outlandish art’

Related Links: Fitna, the Danish cartoons, the Brooklyn Museum, and ‘Piss Christ’

‘Dutch Movie Provokes Fury from Muslims’
‘Danish Muhammad Cartoon Republished’
The Giuliani-Brooklyn Museum row
Arts grants may include ‘decency standards’

Reference: Art, religion and free speech, Austria’s Dommuseum


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