Remember “Piss Christ”? Unveiled in a New York gallery in 1987, the now-infamous photograph depicts a plastic crucifix submerged in a vat of artist Andres Serrano’s very own home-brewed urine. In 1989, thanks to some highly questionable funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, “Piss Christ” went mainstream, shocking Americans. Since then, the 60-by-40-inch print has been protested, decried, defunded, and vandalized, even inspiring death threats to the art gallery proprietors who dare to show it.
To many people, Serrano’s photo is little more than a late-80’s echo—yesterday’s outrage, so to speak. But last week, in the wake of the radical Islamist rampage against the staffers of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the legacy of “Piss Christ,” oddly enough, rose again—and, in what might be a perfectly appropriate reversal of the Easter story, was quickly buried thereafter.
Catching heat for its refusal to reprint the “blasphemous” Mohammad images that inspired the Charlie Hebdo murders, the Associated Press attempted to defend itself last week by arguing that its policy “for years” has been to “refrain from moving deliberately provocative images.” Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney, noting the absurdity of this statement, pointed out that not only was “Piss Christ” readily available for viewing on the AP website, but that the ever-plucky agency actually offered prints of it for sale. (Hey, journalists have to make a living too.)