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“Piss Christ” photo vandalized at French gallery

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Poor old Piss Christ. The 1987 photograph by Andres Serrano depicting a crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine was vandalized again, this time at the Collection Lambert museum (which is actually art dealer Yvon Lambert's mansion) in Avignon, France. Apparently, a group of three or four individuals entered the exhibition gallery on Sunday morning, threatened security staff with a hammer, then smashed through the acrylic screen of Piss Christ and slashed the picture with, according to police, either a screwdriver or ice pick. They also vandalized another Serrano photo, The Church, which shows a nun's torso with folded hands in her lap.

The attack isn't totally unexpected, considering that Catholic groups had been protesting for a couple weeks prior, and that neo-Nazis had done a number on some of Serrano's work at a show in Sweden in 2007, among other incidents. And Piss Christ definitely got the religious right "angered" back in the day. Serrano denies political motivation behind his work; he likes to present it as kind of a Rorschach. And obviously some people see it as the devil.

The museum closed right after the incident but will reopen on Tuesday, and the gallery director said the exhibition would stay open to the public with the vandalized art as is, "so people can see what barbarians can do." Culture minister Frederic Mitterand also issued a rebuke of the attack, citing basic freedoms of creative expression.

I don't know how well Piss Christ would come off vis a vis the Mona Lisa, but it does illustrate the power of symbolism and the provocative nature of art. I'm just surprised Robert Rauschenberg hadn't thought of Broken Piss Christ before. And isn't it ironic that the work's initials are "P.C.?"