The deputy mayor, Joseph J. Lhota, never went to see the painting. Just hearing about it was enough.
The eight-foot-tall portrait of the Virgin Mary, a semi-abstract collage hanging at the Brooklyn Museum, contained clumps of elephant dung and cutouts of female genitalia from pornographic magazines. Mr. Lhota, a Roman Catholic, was horrified. “As a concept,” he said in a recent interview, “it was offensive.”