'Piss Christ' creates fury at Italian art show

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The decision to display a controversial photo showing a crucifix in a beaker of urine by American photographer Andres Serrano has caused complaints in Italy. Photo: News Ltd/AFP
12:37 CET+01:00
The exhibition of a controversial photograph - displaying a plastic and wood crucifix submerged in a beaker of urine - is creating controversy in Italy.

'Piss Christ' – a 1987 work by American photographer Andres Serrano – is set to be displayed at the Photolux Biennial of International Photography in Lucca, an exhibition financed by the regional government of Tuscany.

But the region's decision to finance a display of a photo widely regarded as blasphemous has upset members of Italy's right wing party, the Northern League, Il Giornale reported.

“It is unacceptable that the regional Democratic Party government funds work that so heavily offends Christianity,” read a note from Northern League councillors Manuel Vescovi and Elisa Montemagni.

“It is a work that demeans Christ and pays tribute to Islam,” the councillors continued.

Serrano has long been a controversial figure, mostly thanks to his widespread use of bodily fluids and cadavers in his photographs.

Since first being displayed in the US in 1987 'Piss Christ' has come under fire from a number of religious and conservative figures in the US, who have also taken issue with displays of  the work receiving state funds.

During a 2011 exhibition in the southern French city of Avignon, two Catholic activists even attempted to destroy the piece by smashing the frame housing the controversial photo.

'Piss Christ' after being attacked by Christian activists in 2011. Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP

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But the Photolux festival director, Enrico Stefanelli, sees things very differently and defended the festival's decision to display the work.

"The spirit of the festival is to find balance within a context of freedom," he said.

“The work is not an offence nor is it a criticism of Christ, it's all about the commercialization of images. And it's important that we view it in the historical context of the 1980s to which it belongs."

The exhibition will run from November 21st to December 13th.

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