Jesus Christ in Art + Controversy

One of the easiest ways for an artist to get a little media love is to make fun of a religion. People usually take their religion a little too seriously, so it’s a proven method to create some controversy and to get your brand out there. It’s probably better to pick on religions like christianity, buddhism or maybe even judaism though as you may have to go in to protective custody if you go picking on islam (they really take their religion seriously).

I have been noticing Jesus Christ popping up quite a bit lately..

The German artist Martin Kippenberger upset Pope Benedict with his Jesus Christ frog sculpture hanging in the Museion museum of modern and contemporary art in Italy. The green frog is nailed to the cross with a beer in one hand and an egg in the other. The work is called “Zuerst die Fuesse” or “Feet First.” The pope called the work blasphemous.

Martin Kippenberger's Jesus Christ Frog

There’s also Jesus Christ with an erection by Chinese artist Terence Koh. After being shown at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Britain, the gallery is being taken to court by Emily Mapfuwa for “outraging public decency and causing harassment, alarm and distress to the public.”

Terrence Koh's Jesus Christ Erection

Adam Cullen’s Corpus Christi (Women Only Bleed) entry caused one of the judges of the annual Blake Prize for religious art in Australia to quit. The judge says he quit because the painting was so ugly though, which a fair assessment of the image!

Adam Cullen's Jesus Christ Blake Prize Entry

I have previously mentioned the Chocolate Jesus Christ, the gay Jesus Christ play, and a naked Jesus Christ riding a Surfboard.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Musicians do it, why can’t artists? I actually think it’s pretty ridiculous. It’s within our rights, but the practice of creating controversial art just to be recognized sort of takes away the purpose of creating art. At least in my humble opinion. They (the people that create it) seem to be driven by ‘how can I piss the most people off’ and not by ‘how can I make my message clear’. In any event, I enjoyed the article and I have to say, great work with the scammer too.

  2. Everything can get criticised in everyways of saying; even the religions.

  3. Donald Frazell says:

    Damn, didnt know Yeshua was so well hung, no wonder the ladies loved him. And this is the field of comedy, South Park does it so much better, and gives a variety of slants on the subject, making fun of jesus haters as much as his idolizing followers. These make no real adult thoughts, just childish accusation. What, are the artists the REAL prophets? I should take them seriously? Cant even make a decent painting or toy frog, how am I gonna do that?

    sigh, how many times I gotta say it?
    Art collegia delenda est.

    ps, where you been Dion? Waiting to hear about the Hirst atrocity, tomorrow? His shelves would fit right in the local Walmart, i bid, say %110 a cabinet?

  4. Anything that gets up the Pope’s nose wins my vote. He’s just a hangover from the Roman Empire, when half the known world was enslaved. But hey! Wait a minute. That Kippenberger thingie is Kermit The Frog! Now that is blasphemous. I’m surprised the Muppets haven’t sued.

    Latest on the Hirst auction: he’s taken £70 million in the first evening alone (top estimate for the 2-day sale £62m). There are two more sales to go! Groan!

  5. Thanks TopHat. I havent heard back from the scammer. So he’s either preparing his legal defense or concerned that I’ll just keep posting his replies.. I hope its the latter.

    Bienal, I agree. God doesnt need religion or man (same thing) to stand up for him or her.

    Donald, I was entertaining friends that were passing through my area and I needed a break so I took a few days off. I was looking a little white and ghostly too, so we went to the beach and got some sun (spring has sprung here).

    Ian, if the pope didnt get his knickers in a knot, the work wouldnt have been mentioned by the media. A frog on the cross isnt news until someone like the pope or a religious fanatic makes it news.

    Damien Hirst can sleep a little easier now. I read somewhere that he was having nightmares about his auction.

    I’m happy for him actually. I know I criticize him sometimes, but I’m glad this auction has been a success. It’s another nail in the coffin of traditional art galleries. They have to change, just like the music industry is changing (reluctantly changing).

  6. Donald Frazell says:

    Well, maybe you are right. Art needs to change fundamentally, perhaps by getting rid of the gallery system, but the art schools will still be there for their own purposes, as a business. And misleading young impressionable minds as to what arts purpose is.

    Still needs a kick in its flabby ass. Glad you got some sun, Health is important to a clear mind. Still nice here in SoCal, been a very mild summer, unless you live inland 80 miles, in the 100s again today(fahrenheit, you still got taht old ass system?) No hurricanes, jsut train wrecks in the valley, that was horrible. 22 dead over 100 injured. As long as we dont get earthquaks, we are OK, water is our major issue.

    But the galleries here are just so silly. Not bad, well, yeah bad, but mostly just childish. It would be OK, but thats all there is, besides old dead white guys. I just tend to my garden. Hirst has assistants for that. But I am a hundred times healthier, damn he and most artistes are sickly looking. As in the movie Arthur, probably has his butler wash his lil dick for him, John Gielgud nailed that line. Oops, sorry kids.

  7. Not every muslim is a fanatic. Just so you know.

  8. Artists can bypass schools altogether. Actually, I dont mind the art school system in Australia if it’s used properly.

    There’s a national college system (called TAFE), and they teach you how to paint, draw, take photos or whatever else artists do. They show you how to be an artist, how to use your materials, what works, what doesnt, and even a few small business skills (as that is what we are). They teach some theory and history too, but it’s not the main focus.

    AFTER learning how to use the tools of your trade, you can then choose to go to a university and talk endlessly about ideas and concepts. Which is fine to have good ideas, but I get more pleasure from doing art. I (generally) dont care what it means, I just want to paint stuff.

    I would have hated art after university if I hadnt first been to an art college.

    And yeah, we still have celsius. It has been a freezing winter here (no snow or ice, but cold for this area), so I’m happy to feel some warmth. It has been up to about.. 85 farenheit here in the early days of spring, so i’m thinking the summer might be HOT.

    I wish I had a garden to tend. Maybe thats why I’m so pale. I have grown herbs and vegies since I was 4 years old (which is very unusual for a guy), but the place I’m in at the moment doesnt have the room for one.

    And yeah, watch the kids ;-)

  9. I know that very well Anonymous. Some of the most beautiful people I know are muslims. I spent a lot of time in Turkey.

    The fact remains though, that if artists poke fun at Islam, fanatics react violently. Try it if you don’t believe me.

  10. Donald Frazell says:

    Right on the muslim thing, my wife was raised as one. kinda sensitive on the Muhammed thing(oops?!) The reason they dont have graven images is becasue his clan was in charge of the kaba in mecca, which had been filled with icons of different religions. He wanted to clear them out, so decreed no images of life at all. Byzantines did this to in the 9th and 10th centuries, the Iconoclasts ruled and destroyed many images in churches, what you may have seen in Turkey Dion. Sorry, getting carried away with the history business again.

    But the religion things are really childish and boring. Not much thought put into that. Another sign of the Apocalypse?


  11. even though the symbolism of the beer & egg eludes me, i don’t understand what the Pope has against frogs?
    i also love the argument that because a piece is sitting in a gallery it is somehow forced on the general public causing “distress”.

    Personally i think Jesus is popping up more because there is more dissatisfaction with the current practice of Christianity. it just reflects the current climate.

  12. Donald Frazell says:

    On Southpark, the true Pope was a rabbit. Made far more sense than toys on a stick. Comedy far more relevant than art to societies absurdities, art actually takes them serious.

    Art Collegia Delenda Est.

  13. The irony about the baltic lawsuit is that Emily Mapfuwa didn’t see the exhibit. She read about it and contacted the christian group whose mission is to see the blasphemy laws re-enstated. The baltic had signs clearly stating the nature of the exhibit and possible offense.

    I didn’t like the work conceptually, aesthetically or technically but I am glad there are art museums that allow work that is challenging, even if the only challenge is to create a dialogue about protecting freedom on speech.

  14. There is a big difference between “challenging” and “insulting.” My first reaction to the above works is that the artists need to challenge themselves before they attempt challenging their viewers. And if they are just trying to be controversial, fine, but television has them beat. Thanks for the article and comments. Interesting.

  15. Donald, I saw some really early christian art in some caves in Turkey, all with their faces scratched out.

    It inspired some wonderful decorative arts from Islam though.

    Corrine, that doesnt surprise me at all. She should be counter-sued for stupidity. If I was the judge, this kind of stupidity would be punished harshly.

    Blasphamy is such a retarded accusation. Is this the dark ages? People that even use the word blasphamy need to take more medication.

    The god i worship doesnt need silly little men and women to do it’s talking or uphold funny rules and laws. When will we realise that religion is made by man for man?

    I better stop now before I get too wound

  16. These work of art really striked something in me when I viewed them.

  17. Art is beautiful in its creative expression, but What Is Art? Is art a beautiful sunset over a vast ocean, full of pink skies? Is art a married couple expressing affection for one another, from the overflow of the love they treasure for each other in their hearts? Is art a picture of a family, capture in a photograph of a joyous memory together, a memory that cannot and will not ever be like that exact memory captured and shared together in a photo? Is art seeing the essence of fall, seen through the transformation of a tree, moving to death in fall, only to be resurrected to life in spiring?

    I have nothing against art? I love art … BUT is Art your Hope? Did Art make you? Are you not an expression of the Art of God, in itself?

    When you die, will Art give you eternal life in heaven, with God?

    I’m not hating, I’m merely expressing my love to those who left comments … merely expressing “my art in my own artistic way”.

    Jesus is not a religion. Jesus is not Oprah, Harry Potter, Santa Claus, Monet, Ghandi, or Martin Luther King.

    Jesus is Hope, Jesus is Love, Jesus is Peace, and Jesus is the Only Way To Heaven.

    Ignorantly expressing you’re cynicism is you’re own God given right?

    But out of love, I urge you to know this: The only thing promise in life is this … One day you were born, and one day you will die.

    What happens after? Who are you? Why are you living? To whom do you belong?

    I’ll end on this. God is love. Jesus is God, therefore Jesus is love (do your own research, thorough research … and see what you’re left to conclude … as once a previous “atheist” to another.)

    Lastly, 2 things that Jesus is quoted for saying…
    Either (a). He is telling the truth
    OR (b). He is a liar …
    You Decide!?

    Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one goes to God the Father (HEAVEN) EXCEPT THROUGH ME” (John 14:6)

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
    Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-20)

    “Yet to all who receive him, to those who believe in his name, He gave the right to become children of God – children not born of natural descent, or because a husband planned it, but born of God” (John 1:12)

    I say this out of love … because I desire everyone to go to heaven. I don’t know you (who is reading this) but I say this because this is the only truth in my life, this is the only love (I know) that never fails.

    This is my art. This is my painting of Hope. Faith in Jesus Christ is not religion … it is Love. Therefore I hope you respect my expression of Art … from one artist to another … I hope that my expression of Art, reflects an expression of Love and Hope in your life.

    Art is beautiful … for Art is created from God, because God is the master of Art … Example: He sculpted You :)

  18. In my opinion, the people who draw/create such type of art are mostly attention seekers. They just want people to look at what they are doing instead of showing the real talent. If they are so much talented then why can’t they put it into some much more mature and proper way. But nevertheless, art is art, in any way in any form.


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