The extremely offensive photograph “Pi** Christ,” which launched the culture wars in the late 1980s, will re-emerge in Trump’s America. The “artist” behind it, Andres Serrano, will display this offensive work, along with pictures of volunteers in “torture” settings and the artist’s portrait of Donald Trump, at a museum in Houston, Texas.
On Thursday, The Art Newspaper reported that Serrano’s art would be shown in an exhibition running from June 3 to October 8 at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston, Texas. The exhibition will include “Pi** Christ” (1987), “Black Supper” (1990), a portrait of Donald Trump (2004), and Serrano’s “Torture” series (2015), which depicts volunteers being shacked and degraded.
Most controversial by far is the “Pi** Christ,” a photograph of a crucifix plunged into a vat of human urine. The image sparked the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s, after the work was shown at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1989.
“The Republican senators Alphonse D’Amato and Jesse Helms… led the ensuing fight to try to defund the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] —a seemingly perennial effort renewed by Capitol Hill Republicans since the Reagan years,” Serrano explained in 2015, according to The Art Newspaper. “It marked the beginning of what has since become known in the United States as the culture wars.”
Many liberals defended Serrano and others in the 1990s, despite such highly offensive art, arguing that these artists had the free speech right to present whatever they wished. Conservatives responded by arguing that public tax dollars should not go to support such art.
But the exhibit featuring both “Pi** Christ” and the Trump portrait is particularly relevant to current events. President Trump’s proposed budget would defund the NEA, getting the government out of the art business. This would prevent tax dollars — much of them raised from Christians offended by art like “Pi** Christ” — from going to support this kind of art.
Either federal funding should not support this kind of art, or the people incensed at their tax dollars going to prop up “Pi** Christ” will push to defund the NEA. The liberals who are terrified Trump might destroy art in America made their bed by defending the public funding of Serrano’s “art.”
As for Trump, Serrano defended his portrait of the businessman in 2004, thirteen years before he would become president. “He represented the American Dream,” the artist said, according to Claire Voon. Here is a photo of Serrano in front of his Trump portrait.
Andres Serrano on his 2004 portrait of Trump: "He represented the American Dream" pic.twitter.com/TOOCg57bue
— claire voon 温美恩 (@claire_voon) February 4, 2017
Perhaps now Serrano has a different opinion of the president, with his NEA-slashing budget.
Interestingly, the tables have turned in recent years, with the Left deriding art portraying the Muslim prophet Mohammed in offensive ways. Perhaps most notable was the 2015 shooting in Garland, Texas, when two men opened fire at a Mohammed cartoon contest sponsored by Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative, which liberal groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled a “hate group.”
The double standard between art offensive to Muslims (which liberals deride as hateful) and art offensive to Christians (which they defend as free speech) reflects similar hypocrisy when it comes to religious freedom. Recently, students at a university in Wisconsin made it clear that they thought it would be acceptable for a Muslim artist to refuse to perform at a Christian religious event, but not acceptable for a Christian artist to refuse to perform for a homosexual wedding.
These issues are not theoretical, either. Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein have been fined their entire life savings, and Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman was also fined, merely for refusing to take part in a public act with which they disagreed — a homosexual wedding.
Neither the Kleins nor Mrs. Stutzman harbored animus against gay people, whom they gladly served at their businesses for years. But when it came to a public event celebrating homosexuality, they had to refuse on conscience grounds.
The rules in society should apply to everyone. Either art that is offensive to religion should be supported by tax dollars — even if it is offensive to Mohammed or Buddha or Christopher Hitchens — or it should not be publicly funded at all.
Finally, Jesus Christ is at the center of Christianity, because he is considered the Son of God who gave up his heavenly glory to become a man, and then to suffer the most degrading and painful death imaginable. Therefore, God raised him to the highest place, that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow.
Serrano’s “art” is mocking this, and placing an image of the Son of God in a disgraceful setting. Jesus has been mocked and degraded before, but Serrano is volunteering for the position of Satan, the tempter who gloried in the death of the Son of God. But the disgrace was short, and Jesus’ true glory is eternal. Ultimately, Serrano’s art will pass away, but the glory of Jesus will never pass away.
As offensive as Serrano’s art is — and even if tax dollars are being sent to prop it up — he shall not have the last word. While Christians should protest that their tax dollars are going to prop up this disgraceful insult to Jesus, they should also take heart in knowing that no matter what sort of insults will be hurled his way, the savior will ultimately have eternal glory, and believers will share in it.
Click “Load More” to see the offensive photo, along with the Trump portrait.
— The Art Newspaper (@TheArtNewspaper) June 1, 2017