Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Erotic Jesus Sparks Art Debate In Austria

They knew it would be risky to exhibit a homoerotic version of Christ's Last Supper, but curators at museum of Vienna's Roman Catholic Cathedral weren't ready for a barrage of angry messages and calls to be shut down.

The source of the dispute, which Austrian media has dubbed Vienna's version of the Mohammad caricature row, is a retrospective honouring Austria's cherished artist Alfred Hrdlicka, who turned 80 earlier this year.

The Church hastily removed the main picture, ‘a homosexual orgy’ of the Apostles as Hrdlicka describes it. But the protest has continued, much to the surprise of the small Cathedral Museum which is nestled down in Vienna's historic Gothic quarter.

The museum's director defends both Hrdlicka's work and his decision to host the artist's controversial versions of biblical imagery in a museum tied to the Catholic Church. “We think Hrdlicka is entitled to represent people in this way,” Bernhard Boehler said.

He said the museum never intended to offend people but that art should be allowed to provoke a debate. “I don't see any blasphemy here,” he said, gesturing at a Crucifixion picture showing a soldier simultaneously beating Jesus and holding his genitals.

Hrdlicka says he represented the men in this way because there are no women in the Da Vinci painting which inspired it. But the most disputed work was ''Leonardo's Last Supper, restored by Pier Paolo Pasolini' which showed Apostles sprawling over dining table and masturbating each other.

Pasolini was a controversial Italian filmmaker and writer who was murdered in the 1970s. The exhibition has attracted criticism on religion blogs in Austria, Germany and the US, with bloggers denouncing it as ‘blasphemy’ and desecration.’ (Agencies)
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