On Sunday, around 11:30am local time, three young men entered the Collection Lambert—a contemporary art museum in Avignon in the south of France established by Yvon Lambert, of the eponymous gallery in Paris and Chelsea, which represents Andres Serrano—and took a hammer, spray paint and an ice pick (or possibly a screwdriver) to Serrano’s “Piss Christ” (1987, detail pictured), a giant photograph of a plastic crucifix inside a jar of the artist’s urine, destroying it. The piece, part of an exhibition titled I Believe in Miracles, had been on view since December without raising any eyebrows, until local clergyman Jean-Pierre Cattenoz called for piece’s removal in early April.
“Piss Christ” was previously attacked by two teens during a Serrano retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne in 1997. In Avignon the attackers smashed through its glass and damaged the actual print. The Collection Lambert reopened today with that piece and another Serrano work damaged during the attack—”Sister Jeanne Myriam,” a 1991 photograph of the titular nun’s hands in her lap from Serrano’s Church series—on view in their vandalized states.
- The damaged Serrano photograph at the Collection Lambert (photo via AFP).
The day before the attack, a protest against the image organized by the Institut Civitas and several other local and national Catholic groups affiliated with the far-right political party Front National drew a crowd of about 800. On Sunday Yvon Lambert told Le Monde: “Such ignorance, such intolerance; it’s the middle ages returning full force.”