Catholic League president Bill Donohue has criticized the New York auction house Sotheby’s for including an artwork of a crucified frog in its latest exhibit. Pope Benedict XVI previously wrote that the work “injured” religious feeling and an Italian official went on a hunger strike to protest its display in a regional museum.
The auction house is hosting an exhibition titled “Divine Comedy” containing about 80 works related to Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece. The exhibit includes artist George Condo’s “The Priest,” a 2010 depiction of a deformed animal’s face resting upon the torso of a priest. Another work is Salvador Dali’s 1962 “The Vision of Hell,” which shows pitchforks and a portrait of the Virgin Mary.
The Catholic League reports that one prominently displayed piece is Martin Kippenberger’s “Zuerst die Fuesse (Feet First). The decades-old work substitutes a crucified frog for Jesus on the Cross. The animal is holding a mug of beer and an egg.
Donohue described Condo’s work as “amateurish” and Dali’s as “representative of his usual edginess.”
“But Kippenberger's crosses the line,” he continued, claiming that Pope Benedict was angry when he learned of the work two years ago.
Donohue cites the Pope’s Aug. 7, 2008 letter to Franz Pahl, the regional official in Italy where the sculpture was on display at a museum. According to Donohue, the letter said it “injured the religious feeling of many people who see in the Cross the symbol of the love of God and of our salvation, which deserves recognition and religious devotion.”
Pahl agreed and went on a hunger strike to protest it.
“The Pope was too gentle. Kippenberger's art is degrading, insulting and grossly offensive,” the Catholic League president charged.
He said that Sotheby’s should explain why it is featuring an artwork which is an “assault on Christian sensibilities.”
The exhibit opened on Thursday and runs until October 19.