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Piss Christ


Piss Christ is a controversial photograph by American photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine. The piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art's "Awards in the Visual Arts" competition,[1] which is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a United States Government agency that offers support and funding for artistic projects.



The piece caused a scandal when it was exhibited in 1989, with detractors accusing Serrano of blasphemy and others raising this as a major issue of artistic freedom. On the floor of the United States Senate, Senators Al D'Amato and Jesse Helms expressed outrage that the piece was supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, since it is a federal taxpayer-financed institution.

Sister Wendy Beckett, an art critic, consecrated virgin and Catholic nun, voiced her approval of Piss Christ. She explained in a television interview with Bill Moyers that she regarded the work as a statement on "what we have done to Christ" - that is, the way contemporary society has come to regard Christ and the values he represents.[2]

Serrano produced other similar works to much less controversy; Madonna and Child II (1989), for example, in which the subject is similarly submerged in urine, is not nearly as well known as "Piss Christ".

Piss Christ is often used as a test-case for the idea of freedom of speech, and was described in the journal Arts & Opinion as "a clash between the interests of artists in freedom of expression on the one hand, and the hurt such works may cause to a section of the community on the other."[3]

Some have claimed that Piss Christ violated Separation of church and state. [1], [2], [3].

Piss Christ was included in "Down by Law," a "show within a show" on identity politics and disobedience that formed part of the 2006 Whitney Biennial. The BBC documentary "Damned in the USA" explored the controversy surrounding "Piss Christ".

In popular culture

Pisschrist is the name adopted by an Australian D-beat/Crust-punk band from Melbourne who lyrically espouse anti-religious and anti-government sentiment in there music and are heavily influenced by Discharge and Anti-Cimex.

Musical acts including Fear Factory, Momus and Loudon Wainwright III have lyrically reference it. The Manic Street Preachers had originally intended to use Piss Christ for the cover of their debut album, Generation Terrorists, however their record label wanted to avoid any religious controversy, and the royalty was deemed excessive.

Compare to

  • The controversial exhibition Ecce Homo
  • Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy
  • Strelnikoff Mary of Help of Brezje controversy
  • Chris Ofili and his Sacred Virgin Mary montage
  • Stanislav Shmulevich facing "hate crime" charges for publishing a photo of Quar'an in a toilet in 2007[4][5]
  • The Satanic Verses controversy – controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses
  • Submission – short film about mistreatment of women in Islam
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian - controversial comedy movie about religion

See also

  • Censorship by religion
  • Freedom of speech versus blasphemy
  • Grotesque body


  1. ^ NEA's Cloudy Future. Albion Monitor (April 9, 1998). Retrieved on February 15, 2006.
  2. ^ Eleanor Heartney (July, 1998). A consecrated critic - profile of popular television art critic Sister Wendy Beckett. Art in America. Retrieved on September 5, 2007.
  3. ^ Sacrifice, Piss Christ and Liberal Excess. Arts & Opinion. Retrieved on February 5, 2006.
  4. ^
  5. ^

Article on Hate Crime

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Piss_Christ". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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