Warning: Graphic images of unfettered violence.
Yesterday, in midtown Manhattan, Andres Serrano’s infamous photograph, “Piss Christ,” went back on display — and all hell broke loose. As the Edward Tyler Nahen gallery opened its doors on the first day of its month-long exhibition of the artist’s work, enraged Christians poured onto the streets outside:
Inside the gallery, security guards struggled in vain to keep some semblance of order. As the fight progressed, fears grew that the work — which many Christians find profoundly offensive — would be irrevocably defaced by the rabble:
But the real fireworks were reserved for the late afternoon, when a thirty-strong mob loitered around the entrance to the gallery. Shouting frenzied slogans such as, “what I’m praying for is for people to be touched by this,” “I just want to give people hugs, actually,” and “we think this art is passé,” the protestors demonstrated the harrowing face of modern American theocracy. One after another, they affirmed the primacy of the First Amendment and assured me that they were merely exercising their freedom of speech to reject the artist’s message. Frightening stuff.#more#
The antipathy toward Serrano was particularly brutal. “We determine if that guy is successful if we look at his art, and deem it as art,” said one woman who described herself as a “Christian…who loves Jesus Christ.” “I think it confuses the message of Christianity,” she added. An older man railed, ”it’s really not a good use of his talents.”
As the press representative from the Catholic League started to distribute business cards, I feared for my life. “Call me if you need any more information,” he offered with a sinister smile. “We’re not directly affiliated with the Catholic Church,” he continued, “but we’re in good standing.” This set me on edge. I know how dangerous splinter groups can be, so I looked around for a policeman. There were none to be seen.
And then it happened. A rogue Occupier with an anti-Semitic sign started lobbing insults at the gallery’s owners. “The artist is an idiot!” he shouted. “The gallery is a Jewish idiot! Jews control America!”
This was too much for the assembled crowd, which went wild. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” said one. “He’s crazy!” agreed her friend. Others stared passively on. One man even snickered. “I’m not a part of the Catholic League,” said the crazy man.
Things reached fever pitch when the artist arrived. The crowd tore him limb from limb: