Orthodox Ukrainians Protest Damien Hirst Exhibition

The Orthodox Church in the Ukraine is unhappy, according to a report in Interfax:

Ukraine’s Orthodox believers held a prayer manifestation in protest against an exhibition of the local businessmen Viktor Pinchuk in a Kiev art-center, which they considered blasphemous.

‘Orthodox demanded that the organizers should remove a blasphemous exposition named ‘Jesus and twelve apostles’. It is a horrific exposition, where ‘the holy apostles’ are presented as 12 cows and bulls heads placed in 12 aquariums with formalin’, the statement of the action organizers’ reads. It has been conveyed to Interfax on Friday.

..’Orthodox believers consider mocking at our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy apostles inacceptable [sic]. It insults the feelings of all Orthodox believers and all Christians’, the statement says.

The name of the artist is not given, but this is obviously Damien Hirst’s Romance in the Age of Uncertainty, which was exhibited in London in 2003. According to ArtFacts, the exhibition featured a number of cabinets:

…Each cabinet is dedicated to a single disciple, an abstract portrait of his own particular martyrdom. Since the bodies are missing, we as viewers must work backwards from the point of violent death to reconstruct a life and identity of the victim through the various traumas inflicted and through examination of the objects within the cabinets. At the base of each cabinet stands the corresponding Disciple represented by a sacrificial cow’s head that has been variously skinned, divided or inverted and preserved in formaldehyde in a glass tank. It is the inescapable factual reality of the cow’s heads; their incontestable presence, that seems to refuse imaginative entry, to arrest thought, and throw you back on yourself. Relief comes with the tank dedicated to the ascension of Jesus, where the cow’s head appears to have disappeared, leaving only a clear tank of formaldehyde.

The Daily Telegraph’s art critic gave a bit more context:

…What Hirst is doing, I think, is not in any conventional sense religious. Rather, he is giving concrete form to the stories he heard as a child. In doing this, he is telling us about the origins of his dark imagination…

The animal carcasses are used to show that the apostles were real people whose bodies were subject to corruption…For me, the works…have the immediacy of high baroque art and the vividness of religious writings from the Counter Reformation.

Victor Pinchuk, meanwhile, is a Ukrainian billionaire oligarch whose business success may owe much to the fact that his wife is the daughter of former President Leonid Kuchma. He is also an MP, so perhaps there is a political motive for the protests.

The Pinchuk Art Centre’s website is here.