Banksy unveils church abuse work

Media caption,
BBC's Colin Paterson takes a look at Banksy's latest work

Street artist Banksy has installed a vandalised sculpture of a priest in a gallery in Liverpool.

Cardinal Sin is a bust with its face sawn off and replaced by blank tiles, designed as a response to the child abuse scandal in the Catholic church.

In a statement, Banksy said: "I'm never sure who deserves to be put on a pedestal or crushed under one."

The sculpture was unveiled at the Walker Art Gallery, where it is sitting alongside 17th Century religious art.

The bathroom tiles have been put in place of the priest's face to create a pixelated effect.

"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," said Banksy.

"The statue? I guess you could call it a Christmas present. At this time of year it's easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity - the lies, the corruption, the abuse."

The replica 18th Century bust is now in a room with an altarpiece painted for the Archbishop of Seville by the Spanish artist Murillo in 1673, and Rubens' painting The Virgin and Child with St Elizabeth and the Child Baptist.

Reyahn King, director of art galleries at National Museums Liverpool, said Banksy had approached the gallery and specified that his sculpture be shown alongside the gallery's period collection.

"The sculpture very clearly contains a message," she said. "When you look at it and see the tiles that have been applied to the sawn-off face, you immediately get the impression of those pixelated images of suspected criminals you see on screen or in a newspaper photograph.

"What interests me is that when a visitor sees that, they then perhaps will look at the other paintings in the gallery and look for the less obvious messages that all artists tend to have within their work."

The gallery had had no hesitation in accepting Banksy's sculpture, she added.

"We have always shown controversial art and have works of art that were considered very controversial in their time. It's part of an artistic tradition to show art that challenges people."

'Challenging' art

Anthea Jarvis, an art expert at Liverpool's Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, said: "I don't find the work of art at all offensive, but I do find that statement offensive.

"Lies and corruption are not exclusive to the church, they're exclusive to mankind generally I'm afraid.

"But I think the comment about the bishops of the Catholic Church who have covered up abuse, that is criticism which the Church has to take and learn from and move on, and I think it will."

This is only the second time that the secretive artist, known for his subversive images on street walls, has created work for a gallery.

A show at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in 2009 attracted 300,000 people over 12 weeks.

Cardinal Sin has been loaned indefinitely by the artist to the Walker Gallery.

Street art

Meanwhile, a piece of graffiti art attributed to Banksy in Liverpool has itself been graffitied.

The artwork, depicting a biplane leaving a heart-shaped trail of smoke, appeared in a city centre car park last weekend.

On Thursday, a graffiti "tag" was added to the smoke trail saying "Banksy 4 Robbo".

The origin of the original painting is unconfirmed, but a photograph of the black and white biplane appeared on Banksy's website earlier this week.

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