Are there any limits to the way Christianity can be depicted in art? Are artists who depict Christ in a less than reverent manner taking a risk? Associated Press seemed to think so when, in the wake of the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices in January, it suddenly removed Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ from its image library.
Piss Christ – an image of a sculpture of the Crucifixion, suspended in what appears to be a tank of glowing urine – is one of the few recent works of art that have caused real offence among Christians. It was created in 1987 and became a hate object for cultural and religious conservatives in 1980s America. Serrano even got death threats.
And yet, three decades on, it seems hard for any artist to blaspheme by portraying Christ. Not because anyone will murder them, but because Christians are likely to embrace the outrageous image as they would a lamb strayed from the flock. Jesus, how can you offend these people?