This Thursday marks the debut of Andres Serrano's latest show, "Body and Spirit" at Edward Tyler Nahem gallery in New York. On view will be "Piss Christ," Serrano's 1987 pièce de résistance that seems to have been causing apoplexy in a number of politicians, religious leaders, and FOX News commenters, who then quickly regained their powers of speech.
On Friday, Rep. Michael Grimm (NY) told FOX News: "I call on President Obama to stand up for America’s values and beliefs and denounce the ‘Piss Christ.'" Gawker was able to sum up the bold request in a headline: "Heathen President Refuses to Condemn Piece of Art From 1987."
The exhibit, which contains a number of works from the past 25 years of the artist's storied career in addition to the contentious urine-soaked photograph, is curated by the former editor of Artnet magazine, Walter Robinson. In an e-mail to The Huffington Post, Robinson included the thoughtful and measured introductory essay to the upcoming exhibition. In it, he states, "When it comes to the global stage of the spectacle, many are called but few are chosen, but those who are, like Serrano (and Shepard Fairey, Robert Mapplethorpe and the rest) are to be admired, however uncertain and even negligible the results of their pass through the political cauldron may turn out to be."
Last year, the controversial photograph of a cross submerged in the artist's urine was damaged by Christian protestors in France, who attacked the work with hammers. In this current political climate, where riots happen when certain films are shown, gallery owners are taking security seriously, although they might be reluctant to show it. "We cannot comment on security except to say that the security will be appropriate," Edward Tyler Nahem wrote in an e-mail to The Huffington Post.
But why take a chance on a disputed work like this one? Nahem explained:
Andres Serrano's 1987 photograph, "Piss Christ," is included in this twenty-five year retrospective because it is part of the artist's enduring body of work. The fact that this work continues to draw controversy on both sides of the political, social and religious aisles unfortunately overshadows the artist's intention, which is to engage the viewer on both a visual and intellectual level. In these times of heated religious fervor it is important to remember that freedom of expression remains dear to any democracy.
Despite Nahem's intentions, Bill Donohue and members of the Catholic League will be protesting outside of the exhibition on Thursday. On the League's website, Donohue writes that "decent people know it is unacceptable."
What do you think, readers?
Here's a slideshow of the other work you'll see on view at the gallery:
"Body and Spirit: Andres Serrano" is on view at Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery from September 27 - October 26, 2012.