Déjà vu all over again for another protagonist of the culture wars as French crusaders destroy a print of Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, his 1987 photo of the Crucifixion submerged in urine that was denounced in the Senate and set off some of the federal-funding controversies of the ’80s. Serrano had tried other gambits to stage a scandal in recent years—among them his underwhelming “Shit” series—but for sheer provocation he never managed to surpass “Piss Christ,” which he described as a commentary on how religion was abused and commercialized. It’s hard to know if the protesters in France would have targeted the picture if it were not already notorious. But it’s frightening to read how some church leaders egged them on—and that the guards who tried to prevent them from damaging the work were injured.
Of course, Piss Christ the artwork is not gone forever. It was produced as an edition. And while the incident may discourage some people from showing it in the future, it will surely encourage others.