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Often described as ‘infamous’, Andres Serrano is an American artist who was at the crossroads of the 1989 cultural wars when his photograph Piss Christ (1987) became the subject of a national debate on freedom of artistic expression and the public funding of controversial art. The original artwork depicts a crucifix submerged in a glass tank of the artist’s urine. It has been a victim of iconoclasm on multiple occasions and has long been recognized as one of the most iconic works in contemporary art history.
On 18 May 1989, after a widespread campaign against Piss Christ and its funding from the National Endowment for Arts, Senator Alfonse D’Amato ripped the catalogue displaying Piss Christ on the senate floor, calling it ‘a deplorable, despicable display of vulgarity’.
In early October of 1997, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne George Pell’s injunction to remove Piss Christ from an exhibition about to open at the National Gallery of Victoria was dismissed by Australia’s Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the Archbishop urged his followers to protest and conduct candlelight vigils in front of the National Gallery before the exhibition opened. On 12 October, two teenagers, one armed with a hammer, attacked and destroyed Piss Christ.
On 17 April 2011, following a demonstration of some 800 protesters the day before, two people went into The Collection Lambert in Avignon with paint spray and a chisel in their jackets. As a guard was removing the items, a third person took a hammer to Piss Christ and destroyed it.
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