Gallery Offends Christians

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: January 6, 2008

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead displays statue of Christ with erect penis by gay Chinese-born artist Koh.

Source: Timesonline, A GALLERY has offended Christians and visitors alike by displaying a statue showing Christ with an erection. The sculpture, by the gay Chinese-born artist Terence Koh, is being exhibited by the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. The exhibition, entitled Gone, Yet Still, features 74 different plaster models of people or objects which Koh, 30, claims have been important in his life. As well as the 18in statue of Christ, there are models of Mickey Mouse and ET, dipped into plaster. They also have erect penises attached. The Baltic Centre, which opened in 2003 after a £35m grant from the Arts Council, has placed signs outside the exhibition warning people of the works’ explicit nature. Also included in the exhibition are works by the Turner Prize-nominated artists Tracey Emin and Mark Titchner. The works come from the private collection of Newcastle-born Anita Zabludowicz, whose husband, Poju, a casino billionaire, has donated £70,000 to the Conservative party. So far the gallery has received four written complaints. Others have complained verbally, making the point that there would be a huge outcry and possibly riots if a statue of Muhammad were displayed that way. “For Christians the image of Jesus is very special and to interpret it in a sexualised way is an affront to what we hold dear,” said the Rev Christopher Warren of St Mary’s Catholic cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne. “While Jesus was a human being in every way, to portray him this way will offend.” The Baltic says it has no plans to remove the offending work. “Koh is trying to explain all the things which have meant something to him,” said a gallery spokesman. “It is a sort of mausoleum.” The artist’s works can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars in America where he now lives. In 2006, two other controversial works by Koh were withdrawn shortly before USA Today, an exhibition curated by Charles Saatchi, the advertising tycoon, at the Royal Academy. One showed a Virgin Mary fitted with a phallus at a urinal while another comprised a drum kit spattered with the artist’s semen and blood.