Christie’s has announced that it is auctioning off a non-fungible token (NFT) version of the infamous 1987 photograph Piss Christ, which featured a crucifix inside a glass tank of urine.
In an announcement made Tuesday, Christie’s explained that the NFT, which is a digital collector’s item video version of the photograph, would be on auction from Nov. 30 to Dec. 7.
“The dynamic video NFT replicates three historic vandalisms of the original 1987 photograph on a yearly cycle,” explained the auction house regarding the NFT version of the Andres Serrano photo.
“[Skillfully] applying the time-based mechanisms of digital art, Serrano both archives and transforms the story of his infamous photograph, underscoring its enduring legacy in the history of art and the right to creative expression.”
The three referenced vandalisms include a 1989 incident in which a United States senator ripped up a copy of the photo on the Senate floor, a 1997 incident in which two Australian teenagers attacked a display at the National Gallery of Victoria, and a 2011 incident in which a person attacked the photo while it was on display at The Collection Lambert in Avignon, France.
For his part, Serrano bemoaned the attacks on the “Piss Christ” photograph, explaining that the image was not meant to be anti-Christian in nature, as he identifies as a believer.
“They didn't care that I'm a Christian,” said Serrano, as quoted by Christie’s. “I’m an artist using the symbols of my faith: the body and blood of Christ.”
“If Piss Christ offends you, then I’ve succeeded — at least in getting you to feel what happened during the crucifixion. … As long as my conscience is clean, I don't worry about if something is controversial or transgressive. I just do work that I can stand by.”
Catholic League President Bill Donohue released a statement in response to the NFT auction, asking why the vandals of the photograph should not be considered artists in their own right.
“Were not the alleged vandals themselves involved in “creative expression?” Who is Christie’s to stigmatize these artists?” Donohue asked.
Donohue quoted the stated mission of the group a/political, which helped to create the NFT version of the photograph.
“It bills itself as an organization that ‘explores radical knowledge through the principle of Cultural Terror. Working with artists and agitators, the collective platforms voices that interrogate the critical issues and dominant narratives of our time,’” Donohue added.
“In other words, a more tolerant view of the so-called vandals suggests they were really ‘agitators’ inspired by the ‘principle of Culture Terror.’ Their goal was not to be destructive, but to ‘interrogate the critical issues and dominant narratives of our time.’ Seems to me they hit it out of the park.”