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Banksy sparks row with Catholics over new artwork in Liverpool

by Chris Bradley. Published Thu 15 Dec 2011 13:26, last updated: 15/12/11
'Cardinal Sin' the latest controversial artwork by Banksy
'Cardinal Sin' the latest controversial artwork by Banksy

Banksy has sparked a row with a new artwork that attacks the Catholic Church over the child sex abuse scandal.

The graffiti artist had created a replica of an 18th Century member of the Catholic hierarchy and "pixellated" the face with multi-coloured ceramic tiles.

And the new sculpture 'Cardinal Sin' has been unveiled in a publicly-funded art gallery and proclaimed as a comment on the cover-up over paedophile priests.

But members of the Catholic church have condemned the artwork, which has gone on show at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

"I’m never sure who deserves to be put on a pedestal or crushed under one," said the Bristol-based artist.

He also said the artwork was a "Christmas present" for the city.

"I love everything about the Walker Gallery - the Old Masters, the contemporary art, the rude girl in the cafe. And when I found out Mr Walker built it with beer money it became my favourite gallery. I guess you can call the statue a Christmas present.

"At this time of year it's easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity - the lies, the corruption and the abuse."

The sculpture has been loaned indefinitely to the gallery and it is on show in a room filled with classic paintings, many of them on religious subjects like the Holy Family.

Reyahn King, Director of Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool, said: "It is my understanding that the artwork is a reference to the church and the recent abuse scandal.

"What interests me about it is that when you look at it you see a portrait but its a portrait of someone who has their face hidden, so the artist is giving you a message about that person.

"We often have artworks that are controversial. Our Victorian sculpture of Tinted Venus was considered very controversial when it was first shown in 1862 so we don't shy away, if we did we wouldn't be an art gallery.

'Cardinal Sin' will be placed next to fine art works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin and Gainsbourgh.

The collection also includes Rennaisance masterpieces and one of the best collections of Victorian and Pre-Raphaellite art, such as 'Dante's Dream' by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in the country.

"We are about showing a wide range of art to the public and giving people an oppotunity to think for themselves about how they want to respond to art," added Reyahn.

The Catholic lay organisation "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" said the condemnation of the church and heirachy had gone too far.

A spokesman said:" That it happened at all is a terrible scandal but the truth is that only a very small number of Catholic priests ever abuse children sexually and it is dishonest of the media not to make this clear.

"When a Muslim terrorist plants a bomb which kills a large number of people we are always told, every time it is mentioned, that this movement concerns only a very small number of Muslims who are not representative of the vast majority.

"Where is a similar disclaimer for Catholic priests? Why are the British people being given only half the story?

"The truth is that a young child is now safer in the Catholic Church than in any other institution including nursery or school.

"Since the Nolan Report, as soon as a priest is reported to have abused a child, the police are informed and the priest is removed from his parish that day and kept in a Convent or Monastery away from children while the accusation is thoroughly investigated.

"Even after the police have dropped the case, satisfied that there is no truth in the allegation, the Church continues to complete Her own investigation until satisfied.

"It is encouraging that some journalists have pointed out these facts. Sadly, Church Officials in this country have been very slow to join in and help redress the balance."

A 15ft stencil daubed the 'Love Plane" appeared on the wall of a building on Rumford Street in Liverpool City Centre just a few days before the unveiling of the 'Cardinal Sin' sculpture.

Banksy now has three artworks on Merseyside; the first being a huge mural of a gun-slinging rat on the side of the former Whitehouse Pub on Berry Street, near Chinatown.

Local Blue Badge Tour Guide Philip Coppell is a fan of Banksy and said his "street art" have become popular attractions for visitors to Liverpool.

Mr Coppell said: "Banksy is a cult figure and what he does is not graffiti, it's street art of the highest order.

"He creates talking points and it is a good thing Liverpool has another Banksy. But he put it too low and someone has graffitied the graffiti, so to speak, with a peace sign and scrawled 'Banksy' beside the plane, which is a shame."


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"fantastic art- free and thought provoking. If sexual abuse by priests is so rare why did they have their own residential treatment centre? " eric aardvark, liverpool around 2 years, 10 months ago

"As a practicing Catholic, I take no offense and find nothing offensive here at all." A Catholic in the US, Chicago, Illinois USA around 3 years, 7 months ago

"I double dog dare Banksy to create a similar statue of a Islamic cleric." a thoughtful cynic, USA around 3 years, 7 months ago

"Insulting the corrupt leaders within a religion is not insulting a religion. Shame on those who to try to sweep the abuse under the carpet." bob, liverpool around 3 years, 7 months ago

"Brilliant, I think.In the worthy tradition of stating the truth where people seem happy to let it pass - see Bacon's screaming Pope." A Scouser, Cheshire around 3 years, 7 months ago

"can't wait to go and see both of them, might go tomorrow!" alison, liverpool around 3 years, 7 months ago

"It is outrageous for a state-funded museum to foster so called "art" that is an insult to a religion and its leaders. Appalling!" Larry Harding, Wirral around 3 years, 7 months ago

"One is never surprized by the acceptance of bigotry in the UK. Appalled...dismayed...disgusted...but never surprized." An American, USA -- California around 3 years, 7 months ago

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