ANDRES Serrano’s Piss Christ has been destroyed by Christians who broke into a French gallery and slashed the photograph after weeks of protests.
The New York photographer’s controversial work shows a small crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine.
It outraged the US religious right in 1987, when it was first shown. It was vandalised in Melbourne in 1997, and neo-Nazis ransacked a Swedish show by the artist in 2007.
The work has previously been shown without incident in France, but for the past two weeks Catholic groups have campaigned against it, culminating in hundreds of people marching through Avignon on Saturday in protest.
On Sunday morning, four people in sunglasses entered the gallery. One took a hammer from his sock and threatened security staff. A guard restrained one man but the others managed to smash an acrylic screen and slash the photograph with what police believe was a screwdriver or ice pick.
Last week the gallery complained of ”extremist harassment” by Christians who wanted the image banned.
The Archbishop of Vaucluse, Jean-Pierre Cattenoz, called the work ”odious” and said he wanted ”this trash” taken off the gallery walls. Saturday’s street protest against the work gained the support of the far-right National Front.
The owner of the work, Yvon Lambert, had complained he was being ”persecuted” by religious extremists who had sent him tens of thousands of emails. He likened the atmosphere to the Middle Ages.
French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand condemned the vandalism as an attack on the fundamental freedoms of creation and expression.
The gallery’s director, Eric Mezil, said he would keep the exhibition open to the public with the destroyed work on show ”so people can see what barbarians can do”.