On April 1, her 53rd birthday, Susan Burns of Arlington, Virginia physically attacked Gauguin's painting Two Tahitian Women in the National Gallery because, she said, “I feel that Gauguin is evil. He has nudity and is bad for the children. He has two women in the painting and it’s very homosexual. I was trying to remove it. I think it should be burned.” Burns has a history of mental illness, has been convicted of throwing shoes in stores and hurling a full cup of coffee at a bartender, for which she served 2.5 years in prison, the longest of her three lock-ups. Though the frame sustained minor damage, the painting was unhurt.
On Palm Sunday, after escalating protests by conservative Catholics and the National Front in Avignon, four vandals age 18 to 25 swung hammers and pickaxes to slashing two photographs by the New York-based Honduran-Afro-Cuban artist Andres Serrano: The Church, which depicts a nun's hands in prayer, and Immersion (Piss Christ), which shows a crucifix submerged in a jar of his urine.
The Guardian reports:
Civitas, a lobby group that says it aims to re-Christianize France, launched an online petition and mobilised other fundamentalist groups. The staunchly conservative archbishop of Vaucluse, Jean-Pierre Cattenoz, called Piss Christ "odious" and said he wanted this "trash" taken off the gallery walls. Last week the gallery complained of "extremist harassment" by fundamentalist Christian groups who wanted the work banned in France.
Lambert, one of France's best known art dealers.. likened the atmosphere to "a return to the middle ages."
On Saturday, around 1,000 Christian protesters marched through Avignon to the gallery. The protest group included a regional councillor for the extreme-right Front National, which recently scored well in the Vaucluse area in local elections. The gallery immediately stepped up security, putting plexiglass in front of the photograph and assigning two gallery guards to stand in front of it.
But on Palm Sunday morning, four people in sunglasses aged between 18 and 25 entered the exhibition just after it opened at 11am. One took a hammer out of his sock and threatened the guards with it. A guard grabbed another man around the waist but within seconds the group managed to take a hammer to the plexiglass screen and slash the photograph with another sharp object.
The gallery director, Eric Mézil, said it would reopen with the destroyed works on show "so people can see what barbarians can do".
The paper says the incident "has plunged secular France into soul-searching about Christian fundamentalism and Sarkozy's use of religious populism in his bid for re-election next year."
Elsewhere in the French government, openly gay Minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand condemned the attack saying, “I’m shocked that someone can go into a museum, assault the guards and destroy an art work. This is unacceptable. If one is offended by a piece of art one should make a formal complaint at law: this is a fundamental principle of the French Republic. Any act of violence, destruction, and intolerance is unacceptable.”