It looks like the standoff between "Piss Christ" artist Andres Serrano and the Catholic League may have come to a temporary and anticlimactic pause last night. Serrano's latest show "Body and Spirit" opened last night at Edward Tyler Nahem gallery in New York, and instead of the usual hammer-wielding protesters, the streets in front of the exhibit's location were filled with glitzy gallery patrons and anxious art bloggers - no members of the religious right in sight.
In fact, the only visitors bearing signs were three Piss Christ-loving fans, donning nun attire and gushing about freedom of expression. However, the trio of ironic admirers, lead by Hyperallergic writer Gerry Visco, were not allowed to enter the gallery premises. Visco told the Huffington Post that she had previously posed nude for Serrano and arrived at the opening to show her support. "But they won't let us in. I know that it said on the website that the exhibit is open to the public, but now some bouncer-type is telling us it's a private event. They're scared, I guess. I'd take off the nun costume if they'd let me in!"
Prior to the event, namesake and owner of the gallery, Edward Tyler Nahem, told the Huffington Post in an e-mail that he could not comment on the expected security measures "except to say that the security will be appropriate." But, in the end, it doesn't seem like there was much for the gallery to fear. According to the faux-sisters, the Catholic League did show up for about 20 minutes but disbanded before the party kicked into gear. "Maybe they don't have a lot of members in New York," speculated Visco. The League, which is headquartered on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, a mere blocks from Edward Tyler Nahem, told the Huffington Post that their total, country-wide membership numbers at about 300,000.
Aside from its overall absence at the exhibit's opening, the League's website shows that the group remains fervent in its position against Serrano's urine-soaked iconography. Bill Donohue, President of the League, is seen in a video on the site explaining his organization's disdain, and also showing off his very own artwork -- a bobble head of President Obama stationed in a jar full of brown play-do meant to signify feces. "The cultural and the political elite are basically securalist," Donahue states. "They don't believe in God, this is their God. Liberalism is their God."
UPDATE: Jeff Field, Catholic League Director of Communications, told The Huffington Post via e-mail that Bill Donohue was barred by the gallery from attending.
Let us know what you think of the Serrano saga in the comments section. And compare "Piss Christ" to other shocking works of art in the slideshow below.
Piero Manzoni Poops In A Can
Italian artist Piero Manzoni created an unexpected work of art called "Artist's Shit" in 1961. How'd he do it? The brazen soul filled 90 cans with feces and sold them for auction at Sotheby's. Rumors circulated that Manzoni had not actually filled the cans with human feces, a rumor which was quickly quelled when one of the cans began leaking in a Denmark museum.
Marina Abramovic Plays with Knives
A slideshow of shocking artists wouldn't be complete without including at least one of Marina Abramovic's many startling and sometimes dangerous performance art pieces. In "Rhythm 10," the artist played a Russian game that involved rapidly jabbing knives between her outstretched fingers, switching between large and small blades when she accidentally sliced herself. She recorded her first run and then tried to mimic its exact movements in a second trial, even copying the sounds she made when she nicked her hand. Painful to watch, though we imagine by the size of the blades that "nicked" might have been an understatement.
Amanda Feilding and Wafaa Bilal Drill into their Skulls
British artist Amanda Feiding (who is now married and goes by the name of Charteris) once performed a trepanation on herself as part of a short art film entitled "<a href="http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Heartbeat_In_The_Brain" target="_hplink">Heartbeat in the Brain</a>." What's a trepanation? It's a procedure that involves drilling a hole into someone's skull. The skull boring continues. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/10/wafaa-bilal-body-rejects-head-camera_n_821271.html" target="_hplink">NYU professor Wafaa Bilal</a> implanted a camera into the back of his head as part of a surveillance art project called "The 3rd I." The extreme body modification eventually came to an end when his body physically rejected one of the titanium posts used to keep the device in place on his skull.
Chris Burden Gets Shot
Chris Burden probably deserves several slides, as he's shot at a 747 airplane, taken a bullet to the arm and been nailed to a volkswagen all in the name of art. Here is Burden's infamous "Shoot" from 1971, when he allowed an assistant to shoot him from a distance of 5 meters.
Voina and Tom Otterness Take their Art Out on Animals
Voina, the guerilla art group that graffitied a St. Petersburg bridge with a <a href="http://laughingsquid.com/russian-art-group-voina-paints-giant-penis-on-st-petersburg-drawbridge/" target="_hplink">giant penis</a>, once threw live cats at a McDonalds as part of a subversive performance that celebrated International Workers' Day. You can see a photo of the cats mid-air and likely terrified <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/07/23/us-russia-art-idUSL1650947620080723" target="_hplink">here</a>. But the throwing of cats is not as bad as <a href="http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-05-11/news/29547012_1_tom-otterness-sculptures-public-art-funds" target="_hplink">Tom Otterness</a>' decision to shoot an adopted dog in 1977, an act he later regretted. Come on guys, let's the leave the animals out of it. Photo: Members of Voina courtesy of Getty Images.
Marni Kotak Gives Birth in a Gallery
<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/live-birth-performance-artist-marni-kotak-delivers-healthy-baby-boy/2011/10/26/gIQAsUxoIM_blog.html" target="_hplink">Marni Kotak</a> stated that giving birth was the "highest form of art." And she wanted to make that art public. So she decided to give birth in a gallery in a performance called "The Birth of Baby X." We just hope that she didn't get too caught up in the performance and forget to pick a better name for her offspring.
Zhu Yu Allegedly Eats Fetuses
In "Eating People," Zhu Yu claimed to be cooking and eating a human fetus that he stole from a medical school. And later performances by the Chinese artist involved grafting his own skin onto a pig. All in all, Zhu Yu's entire body of work is pretty shocking.
Andres Serrano Taps into his Bodily Fluids
<a href="http://andresserrano.org/" target="_hplink">Andres Serrano</a> is the king of using bodily fluids to create art. He's sacrificed his own blood, urine and semen to make works like his super-controversial photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine titled "Piss Christ." Talk about blood, sweat and tears going into your work.
Franko B Bleeds on a Catwalk
Like Andres Serrano, <a href="http://www.franko-b.com/" target="_hplink">Franko B</a> was not afraid to shed some blood for his art. He was interested in the ritualization of his own body, so in 2002 he turned the Tate modern into a catwalk and strutted down the aisle while bloodletting in front of an audience.
Vito Acconci Gets Seedy Under a Gallery
This Bronx-born and Brooklyn-based artist got very, very comfortable at Sonnabend Gallery in 1971. For his "Seedbed" performance, he masturbated in a hidden compartment underneath the gallery and vocalized his sexual fantasies over a loudspeaker that gallery goers could hear. Like most of these shocking exhibits, we're just glad we we were not there to witness it.
Breyer P-Orridge Gets Extreme Cosmetic Surgery
<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/lady-jaye-breyer-porridge-397604.html" target="_hplink">Lady Jaye Breyer</a> and Genesis P-Orridge underwent a series of surgical procedures in order to look like each other, hoping to achieve a third being called Breyer P-Orridge. Their gender bending experiment was called pandrogyny and spurred several mixed-media exhibitions including "Painful But Fabulous."
BONUS SLIDE: Hermann Nitsch's 'Orgiastic Mystery Theater'
Equipped with animal carcases and spiritual iconography, Viennese "actionist" Hermann Nitsch organized bloody performances that played out like pagan rituals. For 30 years, he and his 'Orgiastic Mystery Theater' troupe carried out shocking art performances just like these. Enough said. We think this trumps nude breast painting.
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